DJ Brings Out The Happy In People

It is funny that Dona Jean Gatwood, director of community inclusion programs at Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD, Inc.) told me one of the perks of her job is that it gives her the opportunity to laugh a lot, as, it is because of people like her that ... Read More
How a vacation to Destin, Florida rejuvenated Lisa Desatnik.

The Greatest Rejuvenator Of All Time

When was the last time you were under great pressure to complete deadlines and assignments? How often do you have nights where you lay in bed awake thinking about what is on your plate? When was the last time you took a vacation and really checked out from emails and ... Read More
Mary Ronan, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, and John and Eileen Barrett and Chris Bochenek, were recently honored by the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati at its annual awards presentation for their commitments to giving back.

Honorees For Giving Back

Mary Ronan, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, and John and Eileen Barrett and Chris Bochenek, were recently honored by the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati at its annual awards presentation for their commitments to giving back. Mary Ronan Mary was recognized with a National Operation School Bell Award. Operation School ... Read More
Operation Give Back is a Sycamore Township nonprofit organization that supports students living in poverty

Operation Give Back

Children living in poverty, or in need of tutoring or mentoring, are not relegated to certain neighborhoods. They are all around us. They could be our neighbors or someone living down the street. They could be a classmate to your child. Let’s face it, on any given day, any one ... Read More
Varen Noell Rogers was chosen as the cover girl for Cincinnati Family Magazine

Meet A Cincinnati Cover Girl!

Super cool for 5 year old Varen Noell Rogers! Months back I remember her mother, Stacy Sill, telling us her daughter was in the running for the cover model of Cincinnati Family Magazine…and now Varen’s beautiful face is gracing thousands of issues around the region. I asked Stacy to share ... Read More
Northern Kentucky University student Jayren Andrews is a leader and role model.

NKU Student Is A Change Agent

A freshman at Northern Kentucky University, Jayren Andrews has already long established himself as a change agent. Wise beyond his years, he is a young man driven to be a voice, a leader, and a role model for his peers, his neighborhood, his network, and even his world. While attending ... Read More
Lori and Bill Beer have established an endowment fund for the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business.

The Beers Give $500,000 To Support UC Students

It’s great to see people in our community, leaders and innovators in their fields, to step up and pave the way for future generations to carry on that legacy. Lori and Bill Beer Lori and Bill Beer are doing just that with the establishment of a $500,000 Beer Family Endowed ... Read More
Led by Suzanne Deyoung of La Soupe and Julie Riney Richardson, Indian Hill High school students prepared over 5,000 quarts of soup made from rescued food.

A Soup Project For Indian Hill Students

Can a village feed a city? Absolutely! And the entire student body at Indian Hill High School has been working with Suzy DeYoung and La Soupe, Julie Richardson, and Sugarcreek (a co-packer) to prove it can happen. Led by Suzanne Deyoung of La Soupe and Julie Riney Richardson, Indian Hill ... Read More
Dan Marshall is a Cincinnati musician, speaker, and business consultant.

Dan Marshall Never Has Bad Days

Dan Marshall will tell you, he does not have bad days. He only has character building days. Seven years ago he stood before a packed auditorium for an Ignite Cincinnati Event, and reminded the young professionals that even when things are going bad, “you are going to learn something from ... Read More
Kathy Smith was executive director of Cincinnati nonprofit Kenzie's Closet, and shares how it helps prom dreams come true for local teens

Kenzie's Closet Is A Dream Maker

It is a dream of most girls, to step out in a gorgeous evening gown, a flower corsage on her wrist and a young man on her side as she enters the darkened space. Her peers crowd the floor, watching her enter in awe. Her smile illuminates the room. But, ... Read More
TT Stern-Enzi

Films Are His Textbook For Teaching

You may have seen TT Stern-Enzi’s film reviews on FOX 19 or in CityBeat. He also writes for the Dayton CityPaper. Several months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him over coffee. He has such a kind soul about him and when he talks about his passions – films, ... Read More
RJ Mitte and Nic Novicki were among the celebrities who attended the 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival

Cincinnati ReelAbilities About Appreciation

It has been about three weeks now since I left the Duke Energy Center, exhausted (and sick) from an incredible experience of being part of one of the hardest working teams you will ever meet, all working toward a goal of building something so powerful and important as to positively affect ... Read More

A Volunteer Helping Make Things Happen

One of the many benefits of working on the ReelAbilities Film Festival for me are the incredible people it has given me the opportunity to get to know. I will be sharing some of their stories in my blog. Caren Theuring is most definitely among them. Caren was a tireless ... Read More
Heather Seukamp is a teacher at St. Clement Elementary School in Cincinnati

Life Lessons Taught In Class

Kind, patient teachers who instinctively know how to bring out the best in children are such treasures. They are role models to young minds and their power has the capability of impacting entire journeys through life. Heather Seurkamp is among them. Her aunt, Terri Hogan, introduced us. Heather is a ... Read More
Susan Brownknight, executive director of Cincinnati nonprofit, LADD, talks about the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival

Cincinnati ReelAbilities Celebrates Difference

These past few weeks (and months) my blog has slowed as I’ve needed to focus much of my energy on promoting the 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by LADD, Inc. (and a project for the Countryside YMCA and mixing in pet training). The Festival is now a week away, ... Read More
Amy Delgado is a Cincinnati mother to a daughter who has Spina Bifida, and writes a blog called Ability Hacker. She shares what she learned from parenting.

A Mother's Lessons

My work on the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by LADD, Inc. has connected me with some pretty incredible people in our region. Amy Delgado is one of them. ReelAbilities is about bringing people together to learn from and about each other and to celebrate our differences that together make ... Read More
Rosemary Oglesby-Henry, founder of Rosemary’s Babies, presented an award of appreciation to Dr. James Williams, president of Mt. St. Joseph University, for the school’s support.

Rosemary's Legacy

In all of my years of work for social service agencies, I have seen so many individuals and families affected by generational circumstances. There have been those who were born into environments surrounded by poverty, abuse or other hardships; and who have followed in the path of the generations before ... Read More
The greatest lesson in this world is how to give and receive love.

Happy Valentine's Day!

  I don't know who gets more out of my visits to the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center, me or the kids. Usually I read to the 3 to 6 year olds, but last week we did something different. They each made a personal, hand made Valentine's Day car that ... Read More
Melissa Milinovich is 2005 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio and volunteers for the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival. In this interview, she shares some of her story.

Melissa Wants You To See Abilities

I have gotten to know Melissa these past few months through my work with the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival. She is a volunteer whose leadership and passion is greatly furthering the cause of our Festival whose goals are for people to change the way they perceive difference, to break down ... Read More
Jennifer Grimmett is volunteer coordinator for My Furry Valentine, a Cincinnati pet adoption event

My Furry Valentine Led By Passionate Animal Lovers

To organize a MEGA animal adoption event that finds homes for some 800+ animals, it takes a MEGA crew of hard working volunteers to make it happen. That event is the My Furry Valentine, our region’s largest adoption event that finds homes for pets from about 35 different rescue groups. ... Read More
Actor John Lawson shares his story: disability does not define him.

Disability Does Not Define John

Through my work promoting the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival, I have gotten to know some pretty amazing people who have impacted me in very meaningful ways. Actor John Lawson is among them. I met and got to know John when I was promoting the 2015 Festival. He was a volunteer ... Read More
Quote about life by Nora Roberts

In Life, Just Go For It!

A reminder...let's focus on going for what we want in life.   Read More
Kate Lopez is a volunteer with the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival. She talks about what having a disability has taught her.

What Disability Taught Kate

I am so fortunate that my work allows me the opportunity to get to know some incredible people who are so passionate about their cause. Kate Lopez is definitely among them. She and I met when I coordinated the marketing/public relations for the 2015 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by ... Read More
Grace DeGregorio, editor of Cincinnati's Hyde Park Living, shares her story

Grace Shares Life Lessons

Today I have such great pleasure in sharing the story of a very dear person and friend. Grace DeGregorio has been editing Hyde Park Living for 20 years. And, for about 15 or 16 of those years I have been writing a pet behavior column for her. I love that ... Read More
King Records Cincinnati landmark

Saving King Records

I can’t think of a more relevant day to be thinking about a Cincinnati landmark and treasure where some of the greatest music originated, and where civil rights and inclusion was modeled at its best. I hate to admit, when I was first hired to work on the Hidden Treasures ... Read More
quote by Martin Luther King Jr

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Today we celebrate a man of courage, wisdom and vision. In his lifetime, Martin Luther King Jr. devoted himself to bringing people together in harmony. He was about giving people wings to soar above inequality and find their inner strength and passion. He was about giving people eyes to see ... Read More
Amanda Broughton and Michele Hobbs founded Cincinnati pet food company, Pet Wants. They and their customers donated 4000 pounds of pet food to the Stray Animal Adoption Program.

Pet Wants Donates 4000 Pounds Of Food

“Giving is not just about donating. It is about making a difference.”  -  Kathy Calvin, CEO & President of United Nations Foundation That is so true. My friends at Pet Wants, all natural pet food company, truly believe in giving back. I have seen them at adoption events giving food ... Read More
Choose to be happy.

Choose To Be Happy

No special reason. Today, let's make a conscious decision to choose to be happy. Read More
Isabella Noe, a Cincinnati students, talks about kindness

Isabella's Lesson In Kindness

My intern, Isabella Noe, a senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati is a very special person. It gives her such satisfaction to reach out and help others. Below is her story, in her own words, of how a simple acts of kindness touched her; and how she thinks ... Read More
Elizabeth Truitt is director of public relations for Broadway Cincinnati

Elizabeth's Work Is Her Passion

I can’t remember how Elizabeth Truitt and I first met, but I know this. She has an effervescent smile that lights up a room and having lunch with her can be a ton of fun. Her passion for her work and life is contagious. It is what I enjoy so ... Read More
#kindflash Cincinnati is organizing a hat and coat drive for the homeless

Volunteers Needed For Clothes Drive

It is that time of year again. Liz Wu and others of #KindFlash, a group of Cincinnati area volunteers doing acts of kindness, are organizing their annual clothes drive and they need help. During last year's #Kindflash clothes drive, they collected 3,700+ warm clothing items and distributed them across 51 Greater Cincinnati ... Read More
Mike and Chrissy Boehmer

Thoughts For Living A Fulfilling Life

Tami and Mike Boehmer If you follow my blog, you may recall a few posts written by Tami Boehmer, known to many as a brave and inspirational cancer warrior who took on the disease not only through her own fight but the fight of so many others. She was an ... Read More
Karyl Cunningham is executive director of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati Black and Latino Achievers Program

Remember Karyl As A True Friend

It had been years since Karyl Cunningham and I had last seen each other. In fact, admittedly we had a hard time remembering where we met, but that didn’t seem to matter. Within in minutes I felt as I was sitting across the table from a very close friend. That ... Read More
Nick Jackson inspires students through his speeches

Nick Champions Lives

Today I wanted to introduce you to someone who has championed the lives of more than 265,000 high school and college students. Nick Jackson commands the stage. When he gets in front of audiences he lifts them to a higher place, gets them excited and inspired. It truly is a ... Read More

This Coach Loves His Work

Written by my Good Things Going Around intern, Isabella Noe, a senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati   I recently had the pleasure of meeting Coach Mike Holmes.  He first started playing basketball in 1996, and is now in his fourth year of coaching basketball both for Swish ... Read More
Margaret Kastner of Cincinnati learned a lesson of kindness at dinner

How A Dinner Changed Her Life

Margaret Kastner and I met at a meeting of the Cincinnati Blogger Network many months ago, and she has become one of my Good Things Going Around followers. We have kept in touch and talk when we see each other. She has always struck me as someone very easy to ... Read More
Quote: The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.

Everyone Likes To Be Appreciated

Just a little reminder, everyone appreciates being appreciated. 'Thank you', 'Great Job', and 'You are important to me' are sentences that can go a long way to brighten someone's day and life. Read More
Heidi Jark is managing director and vice president, The Foundation Office, Fifth Third Bank

Heidi Jark Shares Inspiration

Heidi Jark, senior vice president and managing director of The Foundation Office at Fifth Third Bank, has long been someone I have admired. A 2013 YWCA Career Women of Achievement Honoree, Heidi has learned some mammoth lessons about life and the strength of her will from her own personal experiences. ... Read More
Faith Maynard is program manager of LADD's Community Connections

She Helps Others Achieve Victories

I am so fortunate that my work gives me the opportunity to get know and be inspired by some truly incredible people. Faith Maynard is among them. Faith joined the team of Cincinnati nonprofit organization, LADD, Inc. (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled) 14 years ago as a direct support ... Read More
Keith Maginn is a Cincinnati author

Cincinnati Author Writes To Inspire

I just recently learned about one of Cincinnati’s hidden treasures…a very talented writer who brings others strength by sharing openly, vividly and passionately his own journey through deeply rooted personal challenges and experiences. Keith Maginn was born and raised here. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee just after college to work ... Read More

Karen Is A Happiness Officer

It is not often you meet someone with a job title of chief guest happiness officer, so, when you do, you absolutely have to pause and learn more. That someone is Karen Smith, who, after retiring from a successful career at Procter and Gamble, purchased with her husband a breathtaking ... Read More

This Cincinnati Pilot Transports Dogs

Derek Hassenpflug (left) and Jack Finke (right) Derek Hassenpflug, CFP®, ChFC® is a certified financial planner and branch manager for the Kenwood Ameriprise office, but on weekends, you may very likely see him if you look to the sky. Derek earned his private pilot certificate in May of this year ... Read More

Their Passion Is Helping Kids In Peru

Now I know where my intern, Walnut Hills High School student Isabella Noe gets her generosity and her drive. Her father, Bill Noe, is sharing his story below of a cause that is dear to his heart. In Bill's words... "The Paul Lammermeier Foundation helps children-in-need reach their full potential ... Read More
Traci Stewart and Rachel Lawson began a Disabilities Resource Care Group at Kroger in Cincinnati

Two Kroger Managers Begin Disability Support Group

Rachel Lawson, fresh meat and seafood planogram manager for Kroger, and Traci Stewart, deli category manager for Kroger, have more in common than simply their busy careers. They both happen to also be mothers to children who do things differently. I met them both the other day when I visited ... Read More
former Cincinnati Enquirer editor met with President Nixon

Ruth Voss Was A Voice For Youth

Many years back and very early in my career, my mentor, Bill Mefford, told me about an organization for whom one of his friends was looking for a public relations contractor. Long story short, that woman was Ruth Voss and the organization that became my first long term PR client ... Read More
quote about work performance and leadership by Lisa Desatnik

Power Is A Beautiful Thing

I joined the Toast of the Town Toastmasters Club earlier this summer and have been loving the experience. It is such a positive, supportive group that I hate to miss our Tuesday meetings. This week I gave my first speech. I have so appreciated the positive support I received from ... Read More
Ric Urban is chief conversation officer for Newport Aquarium

Penguins Are His Passion

When Ric Urban walks into the area of Newport Aquarium where the African Penguins are housed, they all waddle over to him…especially one little girl, Paula. It is yet one more reason why this man who has been doing his work (Newport Aquarium is his fifth employer) for 35 years ... Read More
Billie Mendoza, owner of Cincinnati Paw Joggers, talks about her inspiration for creating the Paw Joggers Run

Running For Animal Causes

It was in November of 2008 when Billie Mendoza retired from a long career with Delta Air Lines, a move that propelled her into a new line of work. Billie’s Paw Joggers dog exercising and pet sitting business has grown into one of the region’s premiere services of its kind. ... Read More

A Night of CINspiration

Thank you so much to my speakers Kilee Brookbank and Vickie Mertz, and to everyone who attended my September A Night of CINspiration for making this another very special night. Below is a link to the photo album. Please click on the image to begin viewing the photos. Hope to ... Read More
quote by Morrie Schwartz

Do What Comes From Your Heart

    A reminder to do what comes from your heart in life. You will be overwhelmed by what comes back. Read More

Sometimes Part Of Healing Is Giving Back

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The beauty of the human spirit, its ability to heal and its ability to touch others, is a wonderful thing. I think the older I get and the more life experiences I am exposed to, the more I appreciate that.

Many of you may know I do a lot of work for the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati. There have been so many days I’ve been uplifted by the people who I’ve met, those who have reached out to make a difference in the lives of others and those whose lives have been positively impacted by their generosity.

The Fischer’s are one in many examples. It was about three years ago when the most unthinkable of tragedies struck home for them. In a split instant, their world was turned upside down. Andrew, adventure seeking son to Lois and Wayne and brother to Amanda and Alan, was killed in an accident.

I sat in a room at the Clippard Family YMCA as Lois stood before other parents and guardians with their children, sharing her story that just four years ago she would never have imagined she’d be telling.

It was the story of a young man completely engulfed in life. Andrew was an Eagle Scout who loved exploring, challenging himself and others while learning about giving back and making a difference. Some of his greatest pleasures were times spent at summer camps rock climbing, caving, swimming, fishing and growing through friendships.

It was in Andrew’s senior year at Colerain High School that his life was tragically taken from those who loved him, but the Fischer’s are keeping his memory and passion alive through the hearts of other young people.

Andrew’s Scholarship Fund was set up to give elementary students in the Northwest School District whose families otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, full scholarships for a week at the YMCA Camp Ernst. In its first year, the Fischer’s collected enough to allow 8 kids the opportunity to go to camp. Last year 11 kids received scholarships. And in 2009, Lois looked out into a room of 16 kids, many of whom have never been to camp before. Lois’ friend, MaryAnn Herbster; sister, Kathy Jacob; and Clippard Family YMCA staff helped raise the money.

Applicants were told to write a paragraph explaining why they want to go to camp. Here is one:

“We really wanted to do something to honor Andrew and this is a perfect way,” said Lois, who has been office manager of the Clippard Family YMCA since 1999. “The volunteers and staff at the Y have been so supportive in helping to raise funds so that we can send more kids to camp. It’s a good feeling to know Andrew’s memory is making a positive impact on the lives of other young people.”

Choices

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Yesterday I was spending some time with the man I visit in an area nursing home. He was reading to me from a large print Readers Digest. One of the pages he found had this on it:

‘Can a poor person really learn to be as optimistic as a millionaire?’

Answer – ‘Absolutely. Try this simple exercise: For the next three days, notice and write down five good things happening in your world. It might be that the trees are especially beautiful this spring day, or that your child’s teacher told you that your kid has really nice manners. After three days, you’ll see that good things are part of a pattern in your life. You’ll notice more good things, and that perpetuates the pattern. This will make you more optimistic.

Simple, but profound. It was a great segway to begin an important brief conversation with him. The circumstances we’re presented aren’t what make us who we are or what direction we travel. It’s the choices we make and how we choose to live our lives. Yesterday my friend in the nursing home chose to tell me how much he enjoyed time with his son. He chose to look out his window and notice the squirrel hanging upside down from his bird feeder.

 

Today I’m choosing to smile at people I meet, to appreciate what I have and all those who make my world special. I’m choosing to have a super duper great day! I hope you do too!

 

Diane Haddad: Why She Gets Involved

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I thought from time to time, I’d ask that question of people I know. So many of us give of our time in our own very personal way. In fact, there are as many different opportunities to share of ourselves, as there are people to go around – actually, probably more.

When others do nice things for us, we tend to not forget…for a very long time. Diane Haddad is one of those people for me. Whenever I think about Give Back Cincinnati, I think about her because I will always remember her smile. I remember how, in the awkwardness of entering an environment where I knew no one, she went out of her way to make me feel welcome. I had a great time that day, and on another subsequent day when I volunteered at one of their projects. It’s a wonderful organization.

So, I thought it’d be great to start this journey by asking the question of Diane first. This is what she said:

“I started volunteering with Give Back Cincinnati because I had moved back to town recently and needed to meet people. There was one event in particular I went to that really clicked with me–everyone was having a great time helping out this one family, and at the end of the day, we could see the work we did. I liked being part of something like that. I wanted to be even more a part of it, so I applied to be on the board. I’ve never met a group of more involved, energetic, forward thinking people who care so much about their city! I wanted other Give Back volunteers to experience some of that energy.”

Success Comes In Many Measurements

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Lynn Collins and I met one cold December afternoon on the gymnasium floor at Cincinnati State. It was the iSPACE LEGO League Robotics Tournament. where the mood was nothing short of intense. Loud music ricocheted off the walls sending tremors across the floor, only the sheer concentration of what was happening almost drowned out any other noise than the sound of cheers rising from the stands. Seconds mattered as robots – less than 16 inches high – moved across tables, pulling or dumping objects, turning knobs and pushing levers. Two students just old enough to be called teens, programmers and builders as they were known in that competition, were standing just at the edge of each field making quick adjustments so their robot could change tasks and accomplish as many challenges as possible. Their teams stood just behind them on the floor. Some shouted in sheer emotion. Others stood erect in nervous tension. Referees in black and white striped shirts hovered. And then, in two and a half minutes, the horn blasted and it was over..at least that round. Teams had three tries that day to improve their scores.

Camera in hand, I was moving around television videographers trying to capture what I could. There was one group in particular that stood out to me. I remember watching as one of the students bent over his robot, fumbling to change its attachment. It seemed like a simple enough task inserting one piece into another, but it was a challenge for him. A woman sat in a folding chair several feet away. Her body was taught, leaning toward the table. Her bent elbows pressed into her thighs and her tense face was cradled in the stability of her cupped hands molded around her cheeks. Her eyes were fixed on that young man.

She and I were introduced later that day.

For 25 years, Lynn told me, she has been driving an hour each way to teach Cincinnati’s urban, inner city kids. This year with the closing of Burton Elementary, she’s been at Rockdale Academy teaching language arts to 7th and 8th graders. Many come to her classroom with deep emotional scars, baggage from travels to unthinkable places. Some have huge responsibilities caring for their siblings and others struggle just to survive. Some keep to themselves while their counterparts won’t let anyone push them around. 99% are living below poverty level. 98% receive free lunch.

These are the reasons why Lynn gets in her car day every day and why she stays late after the last bell in case anyone wants some extra help – or maybe just an attentive ear. She does all this because she sees in them the same potential she sees in her own children. They just need to be given the opportunity to succeed. Maybe that’s what makes Lynn so special in my eyes.

“My students don’t need sympathy,” she told me. “They need empathy and understanding. They’re not any different than any other kids their age.

“If you asked them, they would probably tell you I’m mean, but I’m fair,” she went on. “I don’t deviate from my expectations for any one of them. I hold each one to the highest of standards. I tell them ‘we’re all in this together. Your successes are my successes but if you fail, it’s my failure too.’ “

One day Lynn announced to all her students she was organizing a girls and a boys team to compete in iSPACE’s robotics tournament. Anyone could sign up, but if they did, Lynn required them to sign a contract committing to meet at least three nights a week, work together as a team, and of course show up for the actual event.

Eyes widened. There was a sense of eager anticipation. In the end, seven girls and three boys came to Cincinnati State that weekend. They had a long journey ahead so they didn’t waste time.

Two of the girls on the Rockdale Rockettes have cognitive delays. Math, one of the most important skills in programming robots, was about as difficult to understand for them as hieroglyphics are to me. They struggled, and I mean they really struggled to overcome their challenges. Lynn wasn’t willing to bend. One of their tasks was to program their robot to move forward on the table, stop, turn around and come back. The robot needed to make a 180 degree turn, a concept Tera wasn’t able to grasp despite years of trying in math class. Lynn drew pictures on a board to demonstrate it. The group drew their own pictures, brainstorming as they went. They focused as hard as it was possible to focus. Suddenly, a light bulb went off. “I got it! I understand!,” Tera screamed. The eighth grader could barely wait to tell her math teacher.

That moment was one Lynn will never forget. But then again, you get the feeling Lynn has many moments that will linger with her probably for the rest of her life.

The Rockdale Rockets included Samuel who is considered gifted, Tony who is visually impaired, and Charles who is autistic. They are three very differently abled and talented boys, bringing to the team their own strengths and perspectives. “We all have our own strengths and weaknesses,” said Lynn. “My job was just to help the kids identify their own strengths and guide them to know how to use them to benefit the whole.”

Simple enough. Tony has a great knack for programming. Computer skills are definitely his thing. Charles has such an incredibly mechanical mind. He could look at a mission, figure out what needed to be accomplished and build an attachment for the robot in a matter of minutes. And Samuel’s critical thinking, communication, and writing skills made him the natural leader of the group.

A second component to the tournament involved researching and developing a solution to a climate related problem, then sharing their ideas to people who could act upon them like community councils and legislators. Teams presented their projects and reports to judges the Saturday before the robotics challenge in the gym.

Lynn gathered the boys for a meeting. “You guys understand if Charles chooses to not participate, you need to take the lead,” she told them. Actually, she knew Charles wouldn’t participate because she had never heard his voice. A head nod and eye contact had been his form of communication for as long as she’d known him. She just wanted to acknowledge it was ‘ok’ for him to be his own way.

Then Lynn asked, “what is the last thing you say to the judges before you leave the room?” ‘Thank you’ was the boys’ answer.

But something completely out of the blue happened. Something no one, not even Lynn could have anticipated. She was sitting outside the doors that Saturday, nervously waiting while her teams explained their research to strangers. Suddenly the doors flew open and the boys sprinted toward her. “I couldn’t imagine what could have gone wrong,” Lynn said.

“Mrs. Collins, you won’t believe what happened,” Tony and Samuel blurted out in unison. “We turned around and said ‘thank you’ and then Charles turned around and said ‘thank you’ too.”

Charles stood before Lynn and grinned. There haven’t been many times in Lynn’s life where she’s been at a loss of words, but that was definitely one.

“We were never in this to win the highest score. There was no way I’d tell my students there was a total of 400 points. Our goal was to increase our points with each try, learning to improve compromising and communication skills along the way. The Teamwork Award was what I wanted for them,” Lynn said.

Did they accomplish what they set out to achieve? They sure did. The Rockdale Rockettes went from 9 points in their first round to 61 by the end of the day. The Rockdale Rockets started at 20 points and scored 51 points in the third round. And that Teamwork Award? The Rockettes won a 2nd place Teamwork Award while the Rockets won the Judge’s Award given to a group that demonstrates fortitude and diligence.

And by the way, Lynn was also recognized as one of iSPACE’s 2008 outstanding coaches.

PLEASE NOTE: Students names have been changed at Lynn’s request. Unfortunately, I didn’t know I’d be writing her story when we met and did not take her photo. Please continue reading the blog for a look at how Lynn encourages success in her classroom.

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