Seriously Momentous Sacramento!
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.
The first stop was Ethel I. Baker Elementary on the southeast side of the capital.
This school is the largest in the Sacramento City Unified School District with over 700 students. Principal Olga Arellano escorted us through the student-art decorated walls to the room. In the reading room, scenes of Sacramento were depicted for the students to more fully appreciate their home town. The mural was a study in the topography of the city. Covering all 4 walls, it took you from sleepy marshlands and purple mountains’ majesty (fronted by trickling streams) to densely forested hills edged by rapids. Watery rice fields are even included in the depiction, since the Sacramento Valley is the home of many of them. It turns out that California is the largest producer of short and medium grain japonica rice in the United States, and over 95 percent of California’s rice is grown within 100 miles of Sacramento. That area provides habitat, food and breeding ground for 230 species of wildlife, and many of their stuffed toy cousins made their way to the reading room as “reading buddies” for the students! Other animal sculptures add to the ambience, like the green frog seated on a mushroom reading a book. Cozy couches in muted tones of green and gray, as well as soft-toned carpeting relax the senses and encourage readers to direct their focus on the images and concepts produced by the written word.
The team then headed north to David Lubin Elementary where a cordial ceramic school bus planter with happy students waving from windows greets visitors. On the way to the room, as we passed through the playground, Principal Richard Dixon explained that with 9/11, when peace became an even more important focus, this school took it to heart and had that significant word translated into each of the languages of the school attendees: Italian, Spanish, Farci, German, Russian, Afrikaans, Korean, etc. There are at least 10 languages that are displayed high up around the playground as a reminder for all to see. There is also a peace garden on one side of the playground where students can meditate. Then just past the victory garden (where students grow their own vegetables!) you come to the room where “Reading is Key!” Bright orange and lime sherbet green are focal colors. Since books are organized by reading level in the classrooms and in alphabetical order and the Dewey system in the library, books in the Reading Room are organized by genre. Students decorated bookmarks to utilize in the room. Once it’s time to depart, they then record the name of the book and the page number on the bookmarks, which are kept in folders organized by classrooms! The original school was built in the 1920s, but after suffering the ravages of an earthquake it was replaced by the current buildings. Keys from the original building had been found in a drawer, and were painted in school colors as a part of school heritage! These are displayed on the wall as the bodies of butterflies…tiny, slender creatures that become transformed into beautiful creatures that can elevate themselves by utilizing their resources! See the photos for a closer look at this inspiring room!
Hoo-ray for Hol-ly-wood…..you may recall the catchy tune! But it doesn’t hold a candle to the excitement barely contained in Sacramento’s Hollywood Park Elementary Reading Room in the southern section of the city! Nautical blues are throughout, starting with a navy, powder blue and white variegated carpet, reminiscent of tiny waves. The requisite books are contained in aqua blue bins, most of the comfy seating is done in soft blue tones, and window coverings to match the table covers are in seersucker blue and white. Amongst the nautical lanterns hanging from above, fisherman’s netting is looped from the ceiling with lobsters and crabs peeking down to catch a glimpse of the latest books. One shelf displays a real blowfish in his glory next to a metal sculpture of a school of fish arranged in the shape of a larger fish! The organizers even found teal and chartreuse striped blowfish beanbag seats! The sand in the clear glass lamps is echoed in a couple of sandy rugs between the blue plush sofas. A 6-foot square framed painting of the perfect wave is situated between two floor-to-ceiling curtains of navy stripes on white, which remind you of French windows… and the idea that “books are windows to the world!” You have to see the photos of this room to catch the entire beauty! Parent decorator Corey Weaver worked tirelessly with Principal Tenley Luke to make this such a haven!
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!
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”!
Each of the rooms was about 22 x 40 feet, able to accommodate an entire classroom at a time!!
Many thanks to all the organizers and contributors who caught the dream and brought it to fruition for our children’s futures!!
Coming: “The momentous event!!! Reading Room Opening”
27 students from Earl Warren Elementary walked two miles to the program as the crowning touch for their literary project on Dr. Carson.
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.
“3-2-1” and the ribbon was cut! The room awed the visitors with the various natural sites of the Sacramento area on all 4 walls: relaxing logs floating in cool streams, majestic purple mountains, heavily forested hills fronted by foaming rapids, and even some rice fields, reflecting the local booming economic industry. The plush seating you could sink into was designed in muted tones, echoing the colors in the murals. The books were organized on shelves around the room in forest-brown wicker milk-crate sized baskets, which blended right in with the décor. Guests enjoyed the tasty jumbo cookies and beverages as they admired the cozy student haven. One student actually proclaimed, “I wish this was my house!!”
Special thanks to the Richard Lumsden Foundation for sponsoring the Sacramento Ben Carson Reading Rooms, Excellence in Giving and SCUSD.