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Allamanda Elementary School

Palm Beach Gardens, FL


Allamanda Elementary School celebrated Ben Carson Reading Day at their school:

The school parking lot was jammed with supporters of Allamanda Elementary School. Numerous people were seated in the gym anticipating the opening of the first Ben Carson Reading Room in Palm Beach County, Florida.

student group sitting

The gym walls were painted with palm trees, so even when the students had recess inside, they still could experience the vacation-like aura of Florida! The onstage screen displayed videos of the creation of the reading room and implementation process. On each of the reserved seats was a beach-scene postcard with a hand written note of appreciation, signed “thankful student.”

Maya Moro was not the tallest person in the room, but she sure packed a lot of punch.  This little 3rd grade student stood on a few steps to reach the microphone. She started the program by asking everyone to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Just prior to her announcement, the Navy Junior ROTC from Palm Beach Gardens High School walked out onto the stage. Four young gentlemen in blue camouflage fatigues and impressive black combat boots carried in the flags and standard rifles, formally presenting ‘The Colors’ as everyone solemnly gave the pledge.  Little Maya continued, “And now I have the privilege to introduce Mrs. Marilu Garcia, our school principal.”

principalAfter welcoming everyone, Principal Garcia spoke directly to the children, where she pointed out that this reading room was to celebrate them as readers. The special day brought out several dignitaries, including Mayor Bert Premuroso, Superintendent E. Wayne Gent, board members, the first lady of Palm Beach Atlantic University (Mrs. Pam Fleming) and several school of education students.

Mr. E. Wayne Gent, Superintendent of Palm Beach County Schools, welcomed all and quickly engaged the kids by calling out their grade level and having them raise their hands. He went on to thank the Carson Scholars Fund for the vision of creating a reading room and gave a short history of the organization saying, “up to today, there have been 114 Ben Carson Reading Rooms installed in several states and this is the first one in Palm Beach County.” He believes that this room will help students develop a strong foundation for their futures and thanked the organizers, volunteers and all who made the reading room possible.

Next, Maya Moro introduced the first round of student speakers. Fifth grade student readers, Le’Terrian, Orion Binns and Grace Wisuri, spoke on their beloved aspects of their favorite books. The aspects included adventure, problem solving and reading about great people that they’d like to emulate.

Next, curtains on the stage parted to reveal 36 students dressed in fireworks-styled tee-shirts on three risers. “Brainiac” and “Thinking Big” were sung enthusiastically, while being accompanied by sync-ed hand and arm motions.

Alamanda Group Chorus

After Maya introduced several more of her schoolmates, the three colorfully dressed second set of student readers shared what reading meant to them.  Kyle Campbell, dressed as Sherlock Holmes, and Tyler Straka-Palmer, in a green Peter Pan costume, spoke on how reading beat out the Xbox, Ipad and the TV. Furthermore, Helen Gross, in her own unique outfit, stated how reading is fun in all environments: “inside, outside, and even on the toilet!”

The video presentation of Dr. Carson started with his explanation of what a neurosurgeon does and how rewarding the job was for him. In addition to his work at Hopkins, he said, he and his wife Candy started the Carson Scholars Fund to aid and encourage students to excel academically.  Expressing how honored he was to share the special day with everyone, Dr. Carson reinforced the sentiments stated by previous speakers. He reiterated how important reading is and reminded the students “anywhere you want to go….anyone you want to meet, you can do it in a book!”

Candy Carson’s good morning greeting to the children was cheerfully returned.

Students in costumePosing the question, “How many of you ever get bored?” the children responded enthusiastically by raising their hands. When Candy posed her follow up questions, “but do you have to be bored?” and “what can you do to keep from being bored?” halls of the gymnasium resounded with their chorused response, “read!” She explained how reading exercises your brain, because you have to recognize letters, form them into words, and stimulate your imagination as the words become concepts and ideas. She provided statistics about how there is a current 20-30% drop-out rate in the United States and how 70-80% of those individuals are functionally illiterate.  She stated that all of this could be prevented by reading. The fact is that the average life span of an American is 80 years, and you can spend the first 20-25 years of your life preparing or not preparing.  If you prepare yourself, you have 55-60 years to reap the benefits.  However, if you don’t prepare yourself, you have that same amount of time to suffer the consequences. It’s your choice.

She continued with a story about a young student who had half of her brain removed to eradicate her seizures, and it happened to be the half where logic is processed. Concern about how she would do in math prompted her to study so hard that she was at the top of her math class at the end of the year. Candy Carson believed that if she can do that with half a brain then the students can do it with a whole brain, as well as a little hard work and determination. She went on to say that the brain is a magnificent organ, the most complex in the universe, and can process more than 2 million bytes of information every second while not overloading it! Therefore, when someone tells the students “you can’t”, just remember that you can!

In closing, Assistant Principal David Dickerson shared how as a child, he hated reading. However, after reading about people who had come from poor beginnings and achieved success, he realized that he could do it too!

After traveling down the center aisle of the gymnasium, Principal Garcia led the way to make the colorful trek down Literacy Lane. Students, dressed in elaborate costumes which depicted the students’ favorite characters, lined the hallways. Most of the costumes were created by proud parents and guardians.

Student ChorusOnce inside the library, about 20 first graders, on a small set of double risers off to the side, sang a thank you song to all who made the room possible. Then everyone proceeded to a room in the library that had been decorated to be the newest Ben Carson Reading Room. The tall walls were filled with realistic beach scenes, where it’s as if you can walk into the picture! Tiny, kid-sized white Adirondack chairs, as well as more mature-sized ones in royal blue, were seated around the ocean water. Other seating for the readers included a natural wood lifeguard chair, exercise balance ball chairs, and circular-framed chairs loosely woven with bungee-type cords. With bookcases in the center for easy access, as well as shelves on the wall, students were never far away from developing themselves more extensively through reading.

The reading room was also decorated with other furnishings. Next to the lifeguard chair was a family-sized cooler topped by several rolled up towels. Deep blue sea-hued carpets were populated with myriads of turtles, each bearing a letter of the alphabet. An inflated 5-foot tall pink flamingo stood waiting in the corner for students while they read. Another wall is decorated with a lady seated on a beach chair in the sand. She is reading a book that has the school mascot on the back cover, a yellow jacket. There is also a painting of Dr. Ben Carson, wearing aviator goggles, piloting a plane which is tugging the banner, THINK BIG!

reading areaSix-foot-high palm tree replicas in opposite corners are dressed in twinkling miniature white lights, from the bottom of the trunk to the top and out to the tips of the branches.  There’s even a big screen TV to scroll photos of students who have accomplished the requirements of the Big Readers reading program. While reading, the students can also be graced with the sound of the ocean and other soothing auditory waves.  For the students who have become Big Readers, there’s a White Board of Honor. This board is comprised of students from each class who read the most each week and is there to encourage peers to be the best they can be!

Special thanks go to the Palm Beach County Chapter of the Carson Scholars Fund for their tireless efforts in fundraising and their persistence in bringing this wonderful project to completion.  In particular, Sande Constantine, Linda Stoch and Richard Meyers were very instrumental in making this room a success. We also want to express our appreciation to Principal Garcia, Yasmin Balaguer, the Allamanda staff and especially to Mrs. Brandy Lichtig, who spent countless hours designing and painting the four-wall mural in such detail.

CSF Palm Beach chapter