Each week leading up to Giving Tuesday on Dec. 1, we’re sharing a tidbit of the story of Randall, a young man whose life was changed by SMART when he was in second grade.
CHAPTER 1: MEET RANDALL.
For Springfield second-grader, Randall, the classroom wasn’t a friendly place to be. His classmates teased and bullied him for being gay, and he looked for any opportunity to escape.
Picked to participate in the SMART program, Randall relished the chance to leave his classroom, which was far from a safe, comfortable space for learning for him.
Some 20 years later, Randall vividly recalls his SMART volunteer coming to the classroom, wearing the same outfit each week: glasses with transition lenses that would still be adjusting from the sunlight outside, a white polo shirt, and light-wash jeans. There his volunteer would stand in the doorway each week, Randall’s respite from the classroom…
CHAPTER 2: RANDALL GETS POSITIVE ATTENTION IN SMART.
After retrieving Randall from class, Randall’s volunteer would walk with him down the long hallway to the SMART reading room.
During that walk they’d talk, and Randall would open up about being teased and bullied. This precious time gave Randall something he desperately needed: to vent, and to receive positive validation and attention.
His volunteer would get down on Randall’s level, look him in the eye, listen to him, and tell him to try to ignore his mean classmates and the awful names they called him…
CHAPTER 3: RANDALL REFLECTS ON HOW SMART CHANGED HIS LIFE.
Today, reflecting on his experience in SMART, Randall credits the SMART program as something that boosted his self-confidence and gave him a much-needed support and encouragement in the face of a challenging school life. Yes, the reading was important, but Randall’s memory is also about the relationship he developed with his volunteer and the boost it gave him – the reminder that he is wonderful just the way he is.
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