Kristi Nelson asks her Bird Rock Elementary School (BRES) first-graders what their motto is. In near-unison, 25 high voices shout: “Be part of your world and not just in it!”
Nelson’s class is Skyping with Mark Johnson, state superintendent for all of North Carolina’s public schools, via a computer projecting on the classroom’s pull-down screen. Johnson has just thanked them profusely for donating much-needed school supplies to a school flooded by Hurricane Florence in September. He said he would personally deliver the crayons, paper and pencils to Dixon Elementary in Holly Ridge, North Carolina, “to students just like you,” on the first day that the school reopens after its massive cleanup.
“Guess what else I got in the mail?” Johnson asks. “I got all the letters that you wrote to students. I got letters from Penelope, from Blake, from Oliver …” (Each kiddo screams as Johnson mentions their name.)
The Dixon students will write them back, Johnson promises, “because it means so much to us that you sent these things to us, you have no idea. Can you imagine your classroom not having any supplies?”
“No!” several of Nelson’s students reply.
Nelson, a 24-year San Diego teaching veteran currently in her second year at BRES, performs on example of what she calls “community world outreach” every month.
“I think it’s just who I am,” she said. “It’s harder for the younger grades to understand the impact they can have but we keep trying.”
The supplies were collected for September’s outreach. For October’s, Nelson’s students made 100 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches that were delivered to downtown’s homeless. Next month, they’ll sing for residents of a local senior center.
“Miss Nelson really does live what she says,” said BRES principal Andi Frost. “She really creates her curriculum in such a way that everything the kids learn is also an opportunity to serve the world, and I think it’s just fantastic.”
After hearing about the devastation caused by Florence, Nelson solicited supply donations from the parents of her students. All answered the call, she reported. “Then we just got online and started Googling,” Nelson said. One of their e-mails was forwarded up to Johnson.
After Johnson waves goodbye and the Skype call ends, first-grader Blake Dielman volunteers to represent his class in explaining how the experience of giving makes them feel.
“I’m sad that they got flooded,” Dielman says after asking for Nelson’s help spelling his last name, “but I’m happy that we made the sandwiches.”
“No!” one of Dielman’s classmates corrects him. “The sandwiches were for the homeless people!”
“Oh yeah!” Dielman replies. “I’m happy that we gave the kids school supplies.”