At McKinley Thatcher Elementary, as soon as you enter you are greeted by a 30-foot-wide mural depicting the local grandeur of the Rockies. It is fronted by a rocky garden including a gurgling waterfall, with several live pine trees as well as a “Benjamin” tree (ficus benjamina). Green grass-like carpeting is interrupted by brown “stepping stone” sections and a meandering stream of blue wave-imprinted carpet squares. The Adirondack furniture and shaded child-sized picnic table are all hand-painted by students under the direction of a visiting artist from Australia. The furniture came unassembled, but the gifted and talented students found that putting it all together was one of their most fun projects! The painting of a peacock’s head and upper body cover the back of the Adirondack chair, while his plumage spreads over the seat, creating a warm-feathered hug as one reads!
A gorgeous autumn day brought together constituents of 5 Denver Title 1 public schools. The common denominator? They each had visionary educators whose creativity exploded into simply gorgeous Reading Rooms for their students!
At 10am at each school, students, teachers, principals, and parents were gathered in their respective auditoriums for the simultaneous opening of 5 new Ben Carson Reading Rooms. At the front of each gathering of academic enthusiasts was an audio-visual screen that was split into 6 sections: 5 depicting a view of each school with the remaining one being a live webcam of Dr. Ben Carson streamed from Johns Hopkins.
The excitement was contagious. Dr. Carson addressed the assembly in its entirety, charging them to choose the best path for themselves…the one to success. The thread of thought – the person who has the most to do with what happens to you is you – was woven throughout his speech, which included his own rise from poverty and poor grades to a successful academic and professional career.
At the host school, Maxwell Elementary, the program began with Assistant Principal
Caesar Rivera, who welcomed us all and introduced Principal Dr. Ben Cooper. Assistant Superintendent Elementary Education, Pat Slaughter spoke on the occasion and the students from grades 2 – 6 shared their perspectives on the Reading Room. A fearless fourth-grader walked up with a white and red cane and actually read her prepared thoughts from a brailed page working her fingers across the sheet, since she was blind.
3rd and 4th graders sang an original THINK BIG song, accompanied on guitar by music teacher Sean Ford, while several students snapped their oversized THINKBIG letters up high and at attention one at a time bringing the acrostic to life.
Mrs. Candy Carson spoke about developing your potential through reading and answered questions about the Carson family. But the highlight was Dr. Ben’s address, after which he entertained questions from each school. Thanks to modern technology, all of the schools were able to hear and see the whole thing.
This is the 2nd year in a row where 5 rooms have been opened simultaneously in Denver, and the magnanimous sponsors plan to do it again next year!
Many thanks to the Richard Lumsden Foundation, Excellence in Giving, the DPS Foundation, and other volunteers, those who donated time and materials, the organizers, principals, and especially our donors. These endeavors will have far-reaching positive results for many, many years!