A Gift from a Fourth Grade Class

Nothing is more inspiring than the enthusiasm of a child, and this week I had the opportunity to speak to the 4th grade class of Stephen Foster Elementary School.

Stephen Foster Elementary is in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  They are a Title 1 school, which means that over 85% of the school qualifies for a free or reduced lunch.  The school opened 53 years ago, and they’ve learned to become creative in overcoming budget cuts.  Fortunately, Stephen Foster is classified as a D4 & D5 school, meaning that all of the students have access to a laptop for school-related purposes.

The 116 fourth graders at Stephen Foster fall into one of several categories:

Intervention Class – Stephen Foster created a small but intensive intervention class to help the lowest 30% with additional assistance to close the learning gap.  The group involves fewer students and two teachers provide direct instruction, which is already  impacting the group favorably.

ELL students (English Language Learners) – English isn’t the first language for the students in this group and in many cases, not the language used at home.

EBD students (Emotional Behavioral Disorder) – A class of students in smaller class sizes due to emotional and severe behavioral challenges.  This group receives intensive interventions to help them cope with daily stresses and a rigorous curriculum.

Some in the group had disabilities that include Down Syndrome, Intellectual Disability, and severe ADHD, while others are on the Autism Spectrum. They all have obstacles to overcome, but each and every one of the kids wants to learn and have a chance to feel important. They all know that they can, and will, make a difference in the world if provided the opportunity. Nobody agrees more than teacher Michol Cortez.

Michol emailed to ask if I would consider coming to the school and speaking to the group of 100+ students. The class is enrolled in a course provided by Code.org, and the goal of my visit was to inspire the students further by speaking about my role at Electronic Arts and sharing how technology impacts daily life.  Michol hoped to open their minds and eyes wide enough to see the possibilities that exist in life. It was an invitation that I couldn’t resist!

The event opened with a trailer from EA’s Star Wars Battlefront X-Wing VR Mission Reveal, and needless to say, it was a HUGE hit! It was the best way to grab their attention and keep them engaged. The amount of participation was incredible. My goal was to make the presentation interactive, and I am happy to say that it worked better than expected. In fact, I was even invited back to speak on “Career Day.”

Michol asked me to inspire the kids at Stephen Foster Elementary School, but in the end, they were the ones doing the inspiring! Sure, with age comes wisdom, but it also brings forgetfulness. Too often it’s the positive things in life that we choose to forget, and instead, the focus becomes life’s struggles. The kids at Stephen Foster, challenges and all, opened my eyes and heart to all of the blessings I enjoy daily. Their early Christmas gift is one that I intend to use forever.

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