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Sheryl Green: The power of a change in perspective

Sheryl Green
Sheryl Green

Teachers write the stories. I'm just the messenger, and what a neat privilege it is to share the experiences of my comrades. Word is getting out about these columns, which I appreciate wholeheartedly, and now I am starting to receive emails telling neat stories that are occurring throughout this city.

Just this week I received an email that told of a remarkable story that inspired me, so I want to share it with you now.

Several years ago, Cliff Moulton, then-principal at Fox Elementary School, operated on the notion that the power of giving can break the chains of poverty -- that shifting the perspective from being a victim to becoming a provider could empower students to rise above their own, often debilitating needs.

So, Mr. Moulton began a crusade of giving. Over a 10-year span, the students, teachers and staff of Fox Elementary collected more than $10,000 to purchase food for the Valley Rescue Mission.

The school family worked together to be a difference in the neighborhood. The students even became grocery shoppers, heading to Sam's Club to fill their carts full of food to donate to those they deemed less fortunate.

Maybe I should stop there and become the English teacher I am, asking what is powerful about that last phrase: "to donate to those they deemed less fortunate."

Think about the context of that phrase and the neighborhood in which Fox Elementary is nestled. Traditionally, these students are themselves the less fortunate, if the truth be told. They are the ones walking to a Title I school from impoverished homes. The paradigm shift in these kids was enormous. Students began to sense the power of their position as provider.

Instead of being burdened by labels that stifled their potential, they embraced a new, different label -- the label of "Giver."

With buggies bulging, a young shopper was caught by a reporter outside Sam's and asked, "Why are you doing this?" The reply was simple yet profound: "Because we want to give food to people who are needy." You see, the child no longer considered himself needy, even though the realities of his situation revealed he truly was.

He became powerful beyond his own circumstances and offered this world something spectacular, a helping hand. Fox Elementary had created for this young man the opportunity to shift his perspective.

What a wonderful role schools in our community can play for our children, and what wonders can occur when such a shift is made and a simple opportunity is offered.

I don't know how long ago Mr. Moulton launched this venture, and perhaps it doesn't matter. But the vision matters.

If I've said it before, I'll certainly say it a hundred more times: There is power in our words and deeds.

We can collect coats for Jarvis and pass the hat for a girls soccer team or help Jonathan graduate, but until we teach our kids to exist in and behave in their potential and the realities of their position as powerful, capable, talented, smart human beings, they will remain victims and wallow in their circumstances, and we as a community will remain unchanged. I'm not sure how to save this generation, and I certainly don't have all the answers, but I can recognize an inspiring story and share it. So, thanks for writing, teachers. Let's go to Sam's!

-- Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at