Visit to Volta Elementary

Visit to Volta Elementary

Do you remember the first time you heard the cliché “the children are our future?” I was in the 5th grade, and I honestly didn’t get it. The future is some period of time in front of us, containing events that have yet to happen. It’s not a group of people. Moreover, it’s for everyone: adults, parents, grandparents, etc. It’s not just for children. However, after a recent visit with some 8th grade students at Volta Elementary School in Chicago, I finally understood the significance of that cliché.

Through one of my closest friends, The Gift of Samuel: Grey Dawn made it into the hands of Mrs. Vancil, the 8th grade teacher at Volta. Mrs. Vancil liked the book so much that she asked if any of her students would like to read it on a voluntary basis. Many of the students were curious and ended up reading the book. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with them after they read it.

I got to the school having no idea what to expect. That said, I was extremely excited and nervous to hear what the kids had to say. This was the first group of young adults, near the age of the protagonist in the story, to read the book. I hoped they identified with Joshua, his emotions, and how he approached various issues before him in the story. This meeting was a big deal. If these young adults did not connect with Joshua, then I would have missed the mark. On the other hand, if they liked the book, then I would have achieved what I set out to do.

As I waited in line with the head of security to print out my visitor badge, I couldn’t help but feel the energy of the kids scampering around me. The building was full of energy; there were kids everywhere. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a group of four kids kind of huddled together, looking at me. Once I received my visitor pass, I turned to the group, who were suddenly walking towards me. I noticed my book in their hands.

“You’re the author of this book, right?” one of the kids asked.

“Yep, that’s me.” I said.

“We all love this book, and we can’t wait for the next one!”

“Awesome! Thanks guys! See you in a little bit for our group discussion?”

“We’ll be there!” They said as they ran off, up the stairs.

A sense of relief washed over me. I didn’t know the number of students meeting with me that morning, but I knew at least four of them liked the book.

The group discussion with the kids was incredible. They were curious, excited, shy, and innocent. But above all that, they were intuitive, asking me deep and engaging questions. As I answered their questions and we embarked on discussing various topics, I was filled with a joy that’s hard to describe. These 14-year-old students have so much life in front of them. It made me think of what I was like at that age, getting ready to graduate 8th grade. I was terrified. Looking back, I wish I understood the importance of being excited about the opportunity that was ahead of me as I entered high school.

Suddenly, I knew the ultimate message I wanted to convey. I wanted these kids to embrace their lives ahead of them. I wanted them to face all of their fears and challenges with open minds and open hearts, trusting that all will work out exactly as it’s supposed to, if they just have faith. It’s taken me nearly forty-eight years to realize that fear isn’t something to dread or avoid. Fear is an opportunity to grow, to realize your potential. You just have to find the courage to face your fears. It took me writing and publishing this book to come to this realization. I wanted to be an inspiration not only for them but for all young adults who are uncertain about the future.

Near the end of our meeting, one of the kids asked me what the best part was of writing this book. Was it holding the first draft in my hands? Was it holding the finished product in my hands? Was it the first five-star review of my book?

Francisco, Krishna, Collin, Keziah, Ananya, Lesly and Brissia – I meant every word I said in our meeting and in my answer to that last question — meeting you and spending our time together, talking about life, dreams, overcoming fear, believing that love conquers all, and that no one person has more worth than another, that was, and is, the best part of writing this book. Seeing the looks in your eyes, sharing the excitement of talking about the opportunities in front of you, and having a mindset that nothing is insurmountable, that elation I felt far surpasses any other joy associated with publishing this book. You are our future and I’m honored and humbled that you read my book, enjoyed the story, and received the messages contained therein.

I sincerely thank each and every one of you for giving me that joy. Thank you, Sean and Mrs. Vancil, for coordinating such a meaningful event. I look forward to seeing all of you again down the road and in that golden opportunity we call the future.

1 Comment

  • Mary E. Leonard Posted May 9, 2022 9:06 am

    Paul – I always believed that children were/are the most important beings on this planet! What a neat opportunity for you the Author of this fascinating book to exchange ideas and experiences with some of the young adults from Volta. – I am sure you have enriched their lives and given them a path forward in seeking a promising future. Bravo!

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