“I learned to put 100 percent into what you're doing. I learned about setting goals for yourself, knowing where you want to be and taking small steps toward those goals. I learned about adversity and how to get past it.”
— Kristi Yamaguchi
I love surprises, mainly the good kind. Contemplating back on my personal history, I don’t remember receiving a great surprise among the contents of a manila envelope.
Exhausted, I got home late – even later than my normal late – Thursday night. My wonderful Mary had just pulled a frozen pizza from the oven as I sat down in my easy chair to eat and settle into a couple of past episodes of “The West Wing” on Netflix. I really do love that show, but that’s another column for another time.
As the opening credits rolled on season four, episode 18, Mary handed me that manila envelope.
The contents were as follows: One thank-you card from Castle Heights Elementary School librarian Cindy Sharp, one fun-size Twix candy bar later found to be placed there by my 11-year-old son, Bryant, and 20 handwritten letters from Candace Dodson’s fifth-grade class.
Before I delve into the letters, it’s more than appropriate I touch on the other two items. Sharp’s note thanked me for reading to the fourth- and fifth-grade classes on Read Me Day. Quite simply, I thank her for what she does to both promote literacy for our children and giving me the opportunity to support her efforts in some small way.
The Twix? Well I suddenly realize as my son grows older, I will probably hear the words, “I love you,” less. What may be a small mixture of chocolate, caramel and cookie to many, those three all-important words were right there in that manila envelope.
Dodson, no doubt, inspired her fifth-graders to write about their goals for the future in response to my book choice, “Oh the Places You Will Go,” by Dr. Seuss. It was a fitting choice for such an extraordinary, yet simplistic, literary masterpiece.
Wyatt wrote about his goal “to be in the NFL” on day and how he needs “to get better and do good in college” to reach that goal.
Thomas wants to visit every country in Europe “and stay at each country for at least two weeks.”
Maggie wants to be a singer. She said she thinks the way she should reach that goal “would be by singing in front of people and people that can help me make that dream come true.”
Simply put, Jaylen wants to find the cure for MS, Alzheimer’s and cancer. That’s inspiring, to say the least.
Equally touching, Zorian has “the talent to help people,” and that’s the goal.
Madeline said, “I thought the lesson was great because it was that if you set goals, go at them and don’t give up, you can achieve anything.” There couldn’t be truer a statement.
Logan wants to become an Olympic runner. “I used to think I could not do it and other people could take my place, but now I have the courage to get up and get started on the race of my life and get involved.”
Brylie’s biggest goals are to become a pop star and actress. “So, I have decided that to meet my goals I am going to practice and not let anything stand in my way.”
Colton wants to go to college, graduate and “play baseball for the New York Yankees.”
Cheneva “liked how the book inspired me to set goals. My goal is to become a lawyer.”
Savannah wants to become a singer. “I’m going to sing as much as possible, go to college and learn as much as I can.”
Gabby wants to go to college and study fossils in science “to be a paleontologist.”
Kaya’s goal is to make the Walter J. Baird Middle School cheerleading team. “After you were done, I knew to set that goal I would have to practice, practice and practice and push myself, and I have a good chance that I will make it.”
Kohl’s goal is to play for the Heat in the NBA and for the Yankees in the MLB. “I’m going to meet my goal by practicing almost every day for both sports.”
Chandler has the similar goal of playing MLB baseball. “How I’m going to meet it is to practice a lot.”
Bailey wants to play for the Lady Vols and “when I get out of college I want to be the next Pat Summit.”
Justin wants to go to a good college. “I’m going to start by staying in school and listening to my teachers.”
Bryant plans to meet his goal of being a chef by working and studying hard. “I like to bake and help around the kitchen.”
Gracee wants to be a famous artist. “I’m going to meet my goal by practicing and taking art lessons.”
Alexander wants to go to Russia. “To do that, I need to get a scholarship to save money to go to Russia.”
It’s my sincere hope each and every of these goals are reached. There’s no reason why they can’t.
My hope is that each of these students someday receive a surprise in the form of a scholarship, diploma, professional sports contract, job offer, recording deal or even the favorable results of a presidential election in a manila envelope all their own.
Jared Felkins is The Democrat's director of content. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.