The Carson Scholars Fund (CSF) Reading Room SSWAT team (Strategic Support With Application of Templates) swept into Sacramento on another special mission: opening 5 reading rooms in one day! These five are the first to be developed in the state of California, so the team was on hand to assist in breaking ground in a new state! The reconnaissance mission was to visit all reading room sites the day before the opening to assist as needed in the preparations for the big day. This time the team was composed of Board Chairman Lee Warner, Executive Director Amy Warner, and co-founder Candy Carson, joined by acting Interim Area Assistant Superintendent Tu Moua Carroz.
After a short luncheon with photo ops, guests and organizers from all five schools strolled through Ethel I. Baker’s hallowed halls of learning to the playground. However, no child’s play was occurring this bright and sunny morning! The 700+ Ethel I. Baker Elementary students, seated on the asphalt in neat rectangular sections, according to classes, were joined by administrators and peers from the four sister schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) that would share in the opening of a Reading Room in their own learning institution that day!
The general hubbub subsided as Ethel I. Baker Elementary Principal Olga Arellano rose from her chair and approached the lectern. With a warm greeting she also acknowledged local dignitaries, hard-working committee members, and her colleagues in attendance.
The grand procession followed! From the rear of the assembly, as their school was called, visiting principals, staff and their student leaders promenaded up the center aisle amidst thunderous applause to the front while carrying posters of their own Reading Rooms.
These schools included:
John Cabrillo Elementary, led by Principal Evelyn Baffico
H. W. Harkness Elementary, led by Principal Dr. Tiffany Smith-Simmons
David Lubin Elementary, led by Principal Richard Dixon and
Hollywood Park Elementary, led by Principal Tenley Luke
Still standing, hands over hearts, all participated in the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Principal Arellano.
SCUSD Interim Superintendent Dr. Sara Noguchi then brought congratulations from the head office and complimented the students on their model behavior. She reminded everyone of the power of reading and stated the best readers are the most successful people. She rounded out her remarks with thanks to the Carson Scholars Fund and the donors for investing in the future of our nation. Because of this effort, more than 2,200 students would have access to these special, inspiring, creatively designed launch pads to success.
In unison, all 700+ students recited the THINK BIG acronym led by the principal. After each letter and corresponding phrase, she expounded on the philosophy making it even more relevant to the listeners. When they got to the letter “G”, the principal stated that for Dr. Carson, the “G” stands for God. She then asked the students to put on their thinking caps as she placed her hand spider-like on top of her head. The 700+ students mimicked the gesture, while she continued,
“Now I want you to think about what the “G” means for you.” After waiting a few seconds, she had the kids share that information quietly with their neighbor!
Dr. Carson was introduced by his wife Candy, and related to the students by reminiscing about his school days. His miraculous transformation from “dummy of the class” to top of the class in only a year and a half was due to the caring direction of his mother, Sonya. With the education of a 3rd grader, her job opportunities were limited to cleaning houses and other menial work. But she had the wisdom to watch the people whose homes she cleaned, noticing that they spent much more time reading than watching TV. That realization prompted her to turn off the TV and require her two sons to read books and write reports on them. That reading program is what inspired the Carson Scholars Fund to install Ben Carson Reading Rooms in schools to help children all over the country develop themselves to be the best they can be.
During the Q & A period, each student came forward, clearly gave their name and grade into the microphone, and proceeded with their question. Dr. Carson answered from the lectern and appreciated each one, for all had great questions!
At this time, several students from the 5th grade came forward and shared the inspiring school creed.
Before they sat down, Principal Arellano called Mrs. Doris Lumsden to the podium. Dr. Noguchi, Interim Area Assistant Superintendent Tu Moua Carroz and the principals fervently expressed the collective schools’ gratitude to Mrs. Lumsden, as representative of the Lumsden Foundation, the Foundation that was responsible for the installation of all five Ben Carson Reading Rooms. And these are the first reading rooms to be installed in the entire state of California! Principal Arellano, Tu Moua Carroz and the students presented Mrs. Lumsden with a vibrant bouquet of flowers, amidst warm hugs and handshakes.
Closing remarks by Principal Arellano included the heartfelt gratitude for all who had any part in making the reading rooms such successes….the donors, committee members, volunteers, teachers and other educators, students who helped, etc.
Going west to neighboring John Cabrillo Elementary, the team was greeted by the hustle and bustle of most of the students preparing to board buses at the end of their school day. Once in the office, Principal Evelyn Baffico shared the pleasant surprise of the recited speeches of still bright-eyed student body president Marsiana Pound and after-school-program student president Genesis Tholmer. The students then escorted the team outside past the classrooms to the reading room site.
20+ students with reading room banners (see the photo!) enthusiastically enunciated their presentation! Turquoise and aqua walls surrounded the beanbag seats as did soft puzzle-piece shaped stools covered in black velour with fluorescent orange and green tops. The deep blue carpet, similar to the one above gave the impression of watery waves. The ocean theme they embraced reflects the idea of journeys to various lands, near and far, full of adventure and excitement, similar to what you can find in books! And the vastness of the ocean reminds one of the vast numbers of possibilities that become available when one embraces learning through books!
The four students there from neighboring Sam Brannan Middle School were the artists who designed and painted the mural of sea animals…including Ariel the Disney mermaid and her mer-man brother! A simple request of the middle school art teacher from Principal Baffico yielded the talented 4 eight-grader muralists: Jianna Beasley, Zoe Le, Crystal Lim, and Victoria Moralez, who completed their artistry in only 2 weeks, working before and after school!
Special thanks to the Richard Lumsden Foundation for sponsoring the Sacramento Ben Carson Reading Rooms, Excellence in Giving and SCUSD.