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  • James Neal

Round 1: Rural town Wyoming


My First Attempt. Last Saturday I was working with my Iowa students and thought it might be a good idea to setup something for the local town (in Wyoming).


I am currently in Wyoming visiting my parents and polishing a business plan.


This town holds residence to about 10,000 individuals. The School System is a disaster but the children are very nice. During the day I would spend my time at the library and sometimes I would visit the park. I had been curious about the town because I had seen the statistics online that sent me into a state of disbelief.


I thought to myself, "how could such nice kids be that low performing?" I asked some reliable sources and the statistics were confirmed. The progression of this district was depressing. The kids start of a little below average (by Wyoming Standards) in the Math and Reading department and it just gets worse from there.


By high school about 45% of students are reading at their grade level and 26% of the students are doing math at their grade level.


I get my stubbornness from my mother… I decided to get a firsthand experience of the students (I was still skeptical). My first attempt was contacting a few of the principals to pass a message about setting up a chess club. The first principal I visited was from an elementary school. She seemed a little stressed out but I guess that is the typical transition from leading children to leading adults. We did not have much of a conversation since she had playground duty. I was told that she was nice. I gave her my contact information and she never got back with me.


The next day, I called the middle school and the Secretary was unpleasant. My suspicion was that she had been conditioned this way due to the high volume of rude and inconsiderate parents. In short, I took her mannerism to be impatient and combative.


Even high performing schools have their ignorant parents but there is a lesser volume of rudeness so conversations tend to be calm and casual. That may not be enough to convince you of my objectivity, it may not convince myself. I will add some audio tracks to my posts, in the future, to better make my point.


In short, she sent me to his voicemail but her intonation sounded as though he may NEVER get back to me. My suspicion was confirmed as I still haven’t heard back from him.


At that point, it was up to the library to provide me with the desired perspective. I figured about 4 kids would be my goal to begin a terraforming process. Terraforming means changing the environment (terrain) to suit your need. If I had 4 kids, I would turn that number into 20 in one week and probably 100 in a month.


I sent an a advertisement through the library Facebook page and someone even paid for 3 chess boards (thanks). One of the librarians was excited at the opportunity to reacquaint her daughter with the game. She told me a short story about playing with her passed grandfather. I felt more optimistic about the prospects. I did not think I would get a lot of students based on the library Facebook page since the library was already sparsely attended and in the midst of some serious budget cuts. My thought was that information travels fast in small towns (#grapevine).


On the day of the Chess Club meeting, it was raining. This was a little ominous to me because I had been here for about 3 weeks and it barely rained. It was as if some greater being was crying for this little town.


Not a single person showed up… This wasn't a huge blow since I needed the internet for my earlier group. It was a little depressing though.


Imagine being born into an environment where you were to be developed in a failing school system opposed to change.


I will not give up on these kids, round two we go straight to the source.

Never blame the followers (kids), success is the product of Good Leadership.

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