Working with the children and adults at Van Meter is rewarding and never ceases to amaze me. There isn't a day that goes by that I am not moved and changed by something that happens here.
On Friday, I took the Van Meter National Honor Society members to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in the inner city of Des Moines. We have become mentors and friends to the King Dreamers. The Dreamers are part of the I Have a Dream Foundation which adopts classrooms of inner-city, high risk kids in first grade, provides tutoring & mentoring along with personal support along the way and upon successful completion of high school, financial assistance for college is guaranteed.
On this day we wanted to share a special project with the Dreamers and create books for the Books of Hope program. For the last three years, students in Van Meter have created over 500 books for the Books of Hope program. These books are sent to children in Uganda and other countries in Africa and India. The children love receiving handmade books from all over the world and seeing the pictures every year of the delivery is an emotional moment for all of us.
This year though it wasn't just the experience of creating books for children in Uganda. And it wasn't just an ordinary trip to King.
When I looked around the large, colorful classroom at King I was moved by what was happening. As I took a picture of Jake, a tall senior football player, and his three King friends, they put their arms around each other and showed off the informational book about the Hawkeyes they were creating.
When I passed by a table Janine and her friend showed me that they were using iPhoto to create a book about planets. I asked if they wanted to use my smartphone to research planets on the internet. Her King friend said "I have the internet on my phone too. I will get it." Janine and I smiled and I loved the fact they could both share the resources that were given to them.
Then I walked by Nicole and her King friend. They had asked to look at some nonfiction and picture books about Martin Luther King Jr. The sweet little 4th grader was using Nicole's MacBook to type these words:
Martin Luther King Jr. was a person of character. He worked for fairness. And he helped the black and white people get along with one another.
He spoke to a lot of people. He told them that he had a dream and he wanted all of the people to stop fighting. He wanted the black and white people to ride the bus together and be happy together. He wanted them to also go to school together and learn together.
His dream is still here and because of him things have changed. Blacks and whites can do things together like go to school and restaurants.
The friendship and connection that was happening between Nicole, her King friend, and the others in the classroom brought tears to my eyes and a hope for all of the children involved. To see our kids handing their MacBooks to their new friends was one of the greatest uses of the laptops that I had seen all year. And seeing the King children handing their phones and books to our kids was priceless because they were using the tools they had too.
But once again, it wasn't about the tools or resources. It was about the relationships, connections, and experiences that were given to them on this day. They were teaching one another lessons that we cannot teach from a text book, laptop, or by an application from the internet. On this day, they learned to share, love, accept differences, and learn from one another.
I hope this was one of the most inspiring lessons they will take with them when they leave Van Meter and King.
I know that this is one day I will never forget.