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Durkin Park Elementary School

Chicago, IL

It’s another rainy day in Chicago….but it was a cheery day at Durkin Park Elementary!

As guests arrived, the halls of Durkin Park were lined with students…all dressed in brilliant purple tees emblazoned with THINK BIG,  their school name, and mascot and clapping to the beat of “We Are Family”! Students were totally pumped about academic excellence!  To them, a high academic achiever is a rock star!

students in hall

Durkin Park Elementary School (Home of the Bulldogs) is the educational haven of 600 school children.  Since the largest room in the building could not accommodate all the students, the organizers devised the above method for all the young people to have a chance to meet the namesake of their new reading room!

Cheers erupted as Dr. and Mrs. Carson entered the packed assembly room!  The students were well acquainted with the special guests of the day, since the school had aired the Gifted Hands movie earlier in the week.

To begin the program, counselor, Mrs. Liz Larmon, led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance, and introduced their school’s first Carson Scholar, 7th grader Adrian Trevino, who had received his award just the night before.  Adrian delivered a well-prepared welcome address, and introduced the 3rd graders’ contribution to the program.

3rd grade students vocalized their appreciation for the sponsor musically. Instead of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” they sang, “Read, read, read a book. In the Reading Room. Thank you friends from Advocate. For giving us the Tools!”

Students then recited the poem, “Clock Watching” from a book entitled, “Lunch Money” which was delivered in almost a chant, as they were completely in sync with each other. Not to be outdone, 4th grade class representatives followed with their impactful recitation of “Ickle-me, pickle-me, tickle-me.”

students singing

The school choir then showered guests with visions of the reading room through a well-written adaptation of lyrics to partner with the vintage tune “For the Longest Time.”  Can’t you hear them singing:

Oh-oh-oh-oh, It’s the Reading room,
Wo-oh-oh-oh, It’s the Reading Room.
Once I thought reading was just for home (oo-oo-oo-ee-oo)
Now here at school reading catches on (ah-ah-ah)
Here’s where you’ll find me (ah-ah-ah)
My favorite book beside me
Enjoying reading in the reading room…(oh-oh-oh-oh…)

Reading room organizer and special educator, Gina Adamik then spoke of the process of making the reading room to a reality. After very appreciatively thanking the committee and volunteers, she charged the students to believe they can do anything they put their minds to! She presented a special gift of appreciation to Mr. Ken Lukhard, President of Advocate Christ Medical Center – the sponsor of the reading room.

students in purpleVery touched would be the words to describe Mr. Lukhard, as he responded to Durkin Park’s unique activities extolling the virtues of reading.  He considered it a blessing to have the opportunity to help others develop their dreams by providing a reading room for the students. He explained how he and Dr. Carson are alike in their dream’s…to see education and moral character as things that every child in the United States would be given the chance to develop.

Starting with a special thanks to the dedicated and creative educators and volunteers, Dr. Carson continued his address with thoughts of his early childhood and how he really hated poverty. But with his mother’s reading program he discovered that he had access to the whole world… and a way out of poverty.  There was a time in our country’s history when it was illegal for a segment of our population to read…..that segment was our slave population.  Why was this law in existence?  Because the ‘powers that be’ realized that reading would liberate them!  He used this illustration and the story of self-educated slave Booker T. Washington to underscore his mantra, “The person who has the most to do with what happens to you is you…not the environment.”  (That former slave, as a result of his reading, became the advisor to two presidents!) Dr. Carson continued with the fact that the more stuff you know, the more you open yourself up to opportunities that arise! And the more successful you become as you develop yourselves through reading, the better you can be and the more you can contribute to the elevation of our nation!

We were happy to see the choir rise again….to move us with these unique lyrics to the tune of “I Believe I can Fly”.   Imagine the chorus with these words:

Now I really love to read. 
It teaches me about reality,
I have fun with fantasy,
When I read, I feel so free. 
Reading is so-o fun,
You should grab a book and rea-ead some,
Now I really love to read!

ribbon cuttingThe Grand Finale was the promenade (to the tune of “Ease on down the Road” from “The Wiz”) of the entire assembly, led by the organizers and special guests over to the much anticipated reading room.

Solid walls in lavender and sage with a mural of various animal caricatures supporting each other from the floor to ceiling catch your attention right away as you enter the reading room. The colorful carpet and waist-high bookcases give the room an open feel while providing the brain nourishment we all seek! One area of the room even offers alternative reading methods, with several ipads, and another area has a kid-sized table for listening to books on cds!

THINK BIG wall

Dr. Carson reading with kids

Special thanks to Advocate Christ Medical Center for sponsoring this reading room.

Advocate logo

View more photos from this event on our Facebook page, here.