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.
And the final stop was Northridge Elementary, located in the northeastern suburb of Fair Oaks, CA, where there were representatives from the Country Club Optimist Club who had been sent to Principal Flagler’s office…for good behavior! The representatives from the Country Club Optimist Club were the visionaries who caught the dream for the reading room and made it possible with their financial support. The complete entourage crossed the campus to the reading room and had the opportunity to see students hard at work painting the final details on the wall.
Out of five choices, students had elected the theme “Reach for the Stars”. Imagine surrounded in a deep navy blue…the walls, floor…with stars all around…singly and in the form of galaxies like the Milky Way!!!
One area of the room is dedicated to space- and moonwalker-astronaut-inventor-author Buzz Aldrin (http://www.biography.com/people/buzz-aldrin-9179894). From the Apollo 11 license plate and Buzz Aldin Rocket Hero bumper sticker to the larger than life-sized wall decal of Buzz in astronaut gear where Apollo 11 is reflected in his face mask, the students will know that he is one of our modern-day heroes!! The muralist, affectionately known as Grandma Dee (a lady who has volunteered at the school during her children and grandchildren’s matriculation there) led in the decoration, employing 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students in the painting of the minutiae of stars and other space details. Books are organized in bins with labels in the shape of stars, and luminescent stars of varying sizes are slated to hang from the ceiling. The comfortable Jetson-like furniture surrounds a large rug which looks like a star-studded sky, enabling student to “tiptoe through the galaxy!”
Many thanks to all the organizers and contributors who caught the dream and brought it to fruition for our children’s futures!!
27 students from Earl Warren Elementary walked two miles to the program as the crowning touch for their literary project on Dr. Carson.
Special thanks to the Richard Lumsden Foundation for sponsoring the Sacramento Ben Carson Reading Rooms, Excellence in Giving and SCUSD.