The Wrenshall Challenge

No matter how old I get it seems I do not always see in myself what others see in me. How blessed I am each time an individual is courageously honest in sharing their perspective.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
― Helen Keller, The Open Door

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In August, I was returning home from an out of state trip when I received through my website an email from Ms. Kimberly Belcastro, Superintendent of the Wrenshall Public Schools. The email read: “I would like to talk with you about coming to speak at our school.”

Really? I thought. Speak at a school? Of the many great adventures I’ve had in my life, speaking at a school had not been one of them. I read the email a couple times certain there had been some sort of mistake as public speaking was nowhere on my website. Then it hit me: some sassy student was playing a prank. I remember those “funny” kids in school. I figured one had filled out the form on my website and I was about to write to or call some unsuspecting woman who would have no clue who I was. Nevertheless, I responded to the email.

To my surprise no one was playing a prank. Ms. Kimberly Belcastro did, indeed, know who I was. She had happened upon my website while she was looking for another guest speaker, and she believed my mission to positively impact the lives of others was in alignment with her goals of kindness and leadership being a priority. August 11, 2014, we spoke on the telephone.

“How many schools have you spoken at?” she asked.

“None,” I replied.

And with that there was a short pause. For a moment I thought my conversation with Ms. Belcastro was over, but then, something happened. I found myself thinking about this opportunity to speak in a school – an adventure I had not considered before – and I wondered why I wouldn’t want to experience that. I love people. I love storytelling. I love new adventures. Clearly this woman had contacted me for a reason. So, I could start telling her why she may still want me to come speak at her school, or, I could thank her for her time and hang up the telephone.

“Well,” I said, “I did speak once at a confirmation retreat and that went very well. I also spoke, in 2012, to about 100 people when my family was honored as the Heritage Family of the Year by Shoreview Historical Society.”

“Oh,” she said, sounding a bit curious.

And without thinking I continued telling Ms. Belcastro what it is I have done in my life, what my 34,000 Lives project is all about, and why it is important to me to do what I can to be kind to others.

“This week is the start of the 34,000 Lives Food and School Supply Challenge,” I explained. “The goal is to get as many people as possible to do what they can to generate donations to their local food shelf.”

“Oh, wow,” she said.

For forty minutes we discussed my being a stay-at-home mother who loves writing and photography; my adventures in Alaska, Africa and Kaua’i; my love for people; and my dreams for children. Then Ms. Belcastro said to me, “Well, Heidi, you have done some amazing things. But I think it may be time for you to take it to the next level. Why aren’t you speaking in schools?”

What? Are you kidding me? This woman who I do not know, who lives in a town I had never heard of and teaches at a school I had never been to, thinks I should “take it to the next level”? How incredible is that! Some stranger believes I am capable of doing something I have not yet done: speak to students in schools.

By the end of our telephone conversation I agreed that I would take on the challenge of putting together an outline of what I could speak to Ms. Belcastro’s students about. Then I went to work.

Public speaking. I giggled remembering the time I was working for a landscaping company and had agreed to wear an inflatable pumpkin costume while speaking to some community members at a local park my company had helped to improve. While I had been excited all day, when it was my time to speak, I stood there stiff unable to say anything. Thankfully, my boss was with and said a few words until I could recover.

Don’t overthink it, I told myself. This woman believes you have something valuable to share. And actually, I believed that too.

I had forgotten about speaking at the confirmation retreat until I was on the telephone with Ms. Belcastro. The confirmation retreat was life-changing.

It was a weekend-long experience for a church I was not affiliated with and students I did not know. At the time, I had recently returned home from Africa where I had worked with Habitat for Humanity building homes – an experience I never believed I would have in my lifetime. Overseas for almost a month, I came home very different from when I left, and I could not stop talking about what I had experienced. I shared my pictures, and wrote stories, and told everyone I could how incredible it was to volunteer and travel to this other country. When I was asked by a member of the church to come speak during their confirmation retreat about my trip, I instantly said yes. I figured I could share something special about Africa and volunteering and Habitat for Humanity, and the joy it was to be told I have this incredible gift to connect with people. What I did not figure was that someone’s life would be changed by what I shared.

After an unforgettable weekend with these unbelievable kids who were getting confirmed, Monday morning I opened my email to find a note from one of the boys who was at the retreat. In his note this boy explained how he was struggling with being here after his brother had recently died, and how something in what I said about Africa made him want to go have an adventure like that. For a week we emailed back and forth talking about grief and life and obstacles and challenges, and at the end of a week, this boy spoke to his parents about all he had been going through with missing his brother. At the end of a week, together, with his parents, this boy began a new chapter, and he had a new dream. Never had I imagined sharing a story with a room full of strangers would accomplish something as amazing as that. As much as I impacted that boy, he also impacted me. Every project I have worked on since, I have one goal: to positively impact one person. ONE. If I can connect with one person I consider the project a success.

So, here I was with this new possibility of going to speak to a school. Honestly, the timing wasn’t perfect. I was working hard to complete a week-long food and school supply challenge, writing a book with a man who has ALS, and, trying to prepare my children for the beginning of their new school year. Isn’t that life, though? When we least expect it great opportunities spring up at not-so-great times. So be it. One must seize the moment or let it slip by. I, myself, am more of a seize the moment sort. So, I sat down and tried to develop an outline for what would create a meaningful and fantastic hour.

My biggest obstacle was condensing what I may want to share. Once I began examining my life, I identified several really great lessons to speak about. Ms. Belcastro was looking for one engaging hour.

While I focused on what would be educational, fun, and perhaps a bit memorable, I discovered a problem: the day Ms. Belcastro wanted me to come speak to her students – the first day of their 2014 school year – also happened to be my daughter’s first day of school; I had thought she started a day later.

“Bean,” I said, “I need to talk to you about something.”

“What?” she asked.

I explained how this woman had found my website and liked my pictures and projects, and how she wanted me to come speak to her students on their very first day of school.

“Like how David LaRochelle came to my school?” she asked.

“Yeah, sort of like that.”

“Oh. Cool.”

“But,” I said, “Their first day of school is the same day as your first day of school, and they live far away, so Mommy would have to get you on the bus and then I would not be here when you get off the bus, but Daddy would be here. How’s that sound?”

“Ummmm,” she said, picking apart the details.

“But I like it when you are here when I get off the bus. Remember last year when I got off the bus and pulled out my tooth, and it was the first day of school?”

“I do remember that, honey.”

“Yeah, I like you to be here.”

“Right. I know. I’m just wondering if for one day it would be okay if Daddy was here and Mommy would get home before bedtime?”

I could tell from the look on her face she wasn’t loving the idea, but I also knew it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.

“Lets go talk to Daddy about it, okay?”

With my arm around her shoulders we walked to the backyard where my husband was. I reminded him how I had spoken to Ms. Belcastro and she had presented an opportunity to come speak to her students on their first day of school, and how I was now discovering their first day of school is the same as our daughter’s first day of school.

“Does this pay?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t discussed that.”

“You need to find out. You’re talking about me taking time off work, and you’ll be driving a couple hours.”

“Right, I know. I just think it’s a cool opportunity.”

“I know, but you need to ask if it pays.”

Great, I thought.

“Well Bean,” I smiled, “What if Grandma is here to get you off the school bus?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” she squealed.

“Then you wouldn’t have to take too much time off work,” I said to my husband with a grin.

“You still need to find out how much this pays,” he said back.

“Okay,” I said, going into the house to call my mother-in-law to see if she would consider coming to get my daughter off the school bus her first day of school.

“Sure, that’ll work,” she said.

“Oh, good. Thanks.”

It feels as if there is an abundance of obstacles when it comes to a change in routine for my family. They are used to me being home for things like the first day of school, so the thought of me not being home was proving a bit difficult.

“Well, Grandma said she could be here to get you off the school bus,” I said to my daughter.

Though she half-smiled at me, tears ran down her sweet little face and she said, “Okay, Mommy. Okay. Yeah. It will be okay. I want you to go be awesome.”

I gave her a hug, but I wanted to cry, too. How in the world was I going to go be awesome when I knew I would be missing a special moment in my own daughter’s life?

Later that evening I tugged her blankets up to her shoulders and tucked her into her bed.

“I will miss you when I get off the bus my first day,” she said.

“I will miss you, too, Bean,” I said back.

Then I squeezed her tight and kissed her goodnight. As I stood up and walked over to shut off the light, I whispered, “I sure love you, kiddo.”

“I know, Mommy. I sure love you, too.”

I walked down the hallway wiping warm tears. Then I sat on the couch next to my husband.

“I can’t go positively impact the lives of others when my daughter is heartbroken,” I said.

“Yeahhhh,” my husband said, looking at me.

“I think I’ll have to tell Ms. Belcastro I can’t come.”

“Ask her if you can come the second day,” my husband offered.

Coming the second day hadn’t crossed my mind. Ms. Belcastro had explained her hope of having me come the first day, and I figured if I couldn’t come that day, she would find someone who could. Simple as that.

What was brilliant about this, though, was that I had started a leadership course through an organization called Landmark the very week I began communicating with Ms. Belcastro. Through my course I was learning how to better communicate, and that I am an incredibly powerful person.

What was there to lose by being completely honest with Ms. Belcastro explaining to her exactly why I wouldn’t be able to come the first day of school, and that I would really love to be a part of this incredible opportunity?

Nothing. Worse case scenario she would say she found someone who could come the first day of school and that would be that.

It’s funny that I would think I know what others will do or say before they do or say anything, because until they do or say what they are going to, I really don’t know much.

Getting up from the couch I walked across the living room to my office where I sat down in front of my computer. I skipped all the story and wrote a very simple email to Ms. Belcastro asking if she would consider having me come to her school a different day so that I could spend my daughter’s first day of school with her. I also honored my promise to my husband inquiring about the possibility of compensation to cover the costs of travel, time, and someone having to be with my children while I am gone. These were not unreasonable requests, but they felt like they were to me – I would have made the trek for the joy of the adventure and experience, but it was necessary to consider the costs to my family.

August 17, 2014, Ms. Belcastro responded to my email explaining she understood completely the importance of me being home to celebrate my daughter’s first day of school. She assured me that she, too, was busy getting ready for school to start. She said we could reschedule the event for a different day, and she shared with me the amount she could pay me to come spend the day with her students. I was relieved, and I was thrilled the opportunity for this new adventure was not gone. I could not wait to tell my children and my husband.

Remember how I said things don’t always happen at the perfect time? August 18th, while I had planned to work on the rest of the paperwork I needed to get to Ms. Belcastro so she would fully understand what my presentation would entail and officially accept me as a guest speaker, I instead discovered a family of Paper Wasps gathering in my kitchen. At 6 a.m., after my husband had left for work, I counted them: One, two, three, four. By the time I got to four, because of my experiences with allergies, I decided it was necessary to wake my children.

“Come on, sweetie. We’ve got to go,” I said, shaking my daughter and handing her a blanket. “Take your blanket and go to the front door.”

“Alright, Bubbs, time to wake up,” I said, lifting my son from his bed and carrying him to the front door.

“Why are we awake?” my daughter asked.

“Well, Mommy saw some bees so we’re gonna leave for a bit.”

“Oh!”

I opened the front door, loaded my children into the truck still in their pajamas, and went back to get our dog. Surrendering the house, we sat in the driveway wondering what to do at 6 a.m. when most people are sleeping.

“Should we go get some breakfast?” I asked.

“Yeah!”

Excitement screamed out from the backseat. 6 a.m. was a new adventure with Mom. We picked up some breakfast and sat in a church parking lot singing songs and searching for wildlife until 8:00 a.m. when I considered it a decent time to call and go over to my in-laws.

After work, my husband and his father found the wasp nest that was IN our basement ceiling. My family and I spent the next week living with my in-laws while my husband and his father did what they needed to ensure we no longer would be residing with Paper Wasps.

During that week and after, life continued to be incredibly busy and the start of school continued to inch closer and closer. Before I knew it, the first week of school had come and gone and I had not followed-up with Ms. Belcastro.

“I don’t know, it’s probably too late now,” I said to my husband.

“Just sit down and finish what you need to finish,” he said.

“Yeah, but . . .”

“I’m taking the kids outside. Do what you’ve gotta do. I know you want to do this,” he said. And out the door they all went.

Sunday, September 7, 2014, I sat at my dining room table writing an entire speech. I knew I wouldn’t read a speech, but to get an accurate outline I needed to write one. I condensed it, added to it, timed it. Then, I did it all over again: condense, add, time. Condense, add, time.

“How’s it going?” my husband asked, sometime around dinner.

“It’s going. I don’t know. I just want to be sure it’s interesting.”

“It will be,” he smiled.

Like many people, what I wanted was for my materials to be perfect. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, between children, housework, classes and responsibilities, I read over my speech, looked at my outline, and examined what I thought would make it absolutely perfect.

Mid-week I came to the realization that no matter how long I took to work on what I hoped to present, it would never be perfect. The school year had already started. If I wanted to speak to Ms. Belcastro’s students, my materials needed to be handed in. Though I had not touched base with Ms. Belcastro in several weeks, I kept thinking about how she believed I was capable of presenting something spectacular to her students. Finally, I deemed my outline finished, and I pressed send.

“Great to hear from you!” she wrote back.

Her email continued, “I just spoke with our school counselor, Erik Holter. He is an awesome young professional doing great things for the students at Wrenshall. I am going to have you cc him on the emails so he can stay in the loop also.

We would love to have you come speak to our students. I shared the outline with him and he was impressed (I was also).”

What? They were impressed with my outline and they WOULD like me to come speak to their students? Yes! I was so excited. My fears that Ms. Belcastro would choose someone with more speaking-at-a-school experience who could come on the first day of the school year and not charge a fee were crushed, crushed, crushed when I read her email. Crushed! She still believed I would do an amazing job, and she still wanted me to come to her school. In addition, she enrolled her school counselor to be on our team, recognizing that he does great things for people. I loved that. And I knew immediately that Ms. Kimberly Belcastro is that type of person who lifts others up in such a way they are empowered to share their gifts and what they have to offer with those around them. Not everyone does that. Ms. Belcastro is unique.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014, my alarm went off at 4 a.m. I got up, started making a cup of coffee, smiled at my husband who was sick on the couch.

“How are the kids?” I asked.

“Still sick,” he said. “We’ll be staying home.”

“Okay, well, I can’t stay home. I made a commitment to speak at the school.”

“No, no, you go. We’ll be fine.”

The evening before, sick, he had joked with the kids, “Mom’s gonna go to work and Dad’s gonna stay home.” I sipped my coffee and grinned a bit. It had been a while since I had an early morning getting ready to “go to work”.

I pulled on my clothes, curled my hair, colored on a bit of makeup. I picked out my favorite earrings purchased in Michigan, and secured my big studded belt around my waist. It’s kind of cool, I said to myself, looking in the mirror. I look good in purple, I reminded, fixing the collar of my blouse. Can’t go wrong with a bit of sparkle, I thought, straightening the sides of my sweater.

In the dining room I pulled and stretched black tights across my chest and over my head. “Fleece lined,” I read aloud from the packaging.

“It’s going to be 74 degrees today,” my husband said.

“I know, but I never wear skirts. I feel more comfortable with tights.”

“I’m just saying you could go without the insulated tights.”

“Yeah. Right. Okay, thanks.”

I took another sip of my coffee, gave the tights one last stretch, put my toes in and pulled them up. Tights. They are not my favorite. But the fleece lined ones are really soft.

Setting my coffee cup on the dining room table, I checked my bag three more times: outline, speech, binder, pictures. Yep, I was pretty sure I had everything I needed.

“Think I need anything else?” I asked my husband, as if he knew what I had packed.

“Heidi,” he said, now standing in the doorway.

“Yeah?”

“You’re gonna do great.”

Knowing there are people who believe in me and what I am capable of doing in this world is special. I feel incredibly blessed and am abundantly thankful for everyone who is on my team rooting for me. Especially, my loving husband.

“Thanks,” I said. Then I smiled.

By 6:15 a.m. I was pulling out of the driveway. Google maps told me the drive would take about an hour-and-a-half. Scheduled to speak at Wrenshall at 10 a.m., I wanted to leave with plenty of time for stops to get water, go to the bathroom, or ask where I had gotten lost. It was still dark, and of course, I needed to get gas. I filled the tank and watched as pieces and puffs of pink began to infiltrate the grey sky. Then, out of the parking lot, through the stoplight, down the ramp and onto 35 I drove.

The fog lifting and the sun rising made for a beautiful scene I wished I could have photographed. I had to remind myself a time or two, there isn’t time to stop. I knew if I pulled over the likelihood of me getting carried away with taking pictures and losing track of time was great. Then all my extra time would have somehow vanished and there I would be squealing into the parking lot at Wrenshall running to try to make it on time. That, would be bad, I said with a little head shake. Instead, I soaked in what I could and kept driving.

Around 8:00 a.m. I spotted the Wrenshall Welcomes You sign. Approximately twenty-five miles south of Duluth, Wrenshall is a cute little town with a wonderful gas station that has employees who share big smiles. I stopped there to buy a bottle of water and go to the bathroom. Down the street and just around the corner, I found the school.

Incredible students, incredible staff, having THE BEST SCHOOL YEAR EVER – that’s what Ms. Belcastro told me on the telephone. What I understood was that she had fabulous people in her community who were up to big things. I couldn’t wait to meet them. And I couldn’t wait to tell them about the “Wrenshall Challenge”.

The point of my 34,000 Lives project, which is what interested Ms. Belcastro, is to positively impact 34,000 Lives in such a way those 34,000 people are inspired to positively impact 34,000 lives. It’s a mission that allows me to teach my children we always have something to give, and we always do what we can to brighten the lives of others. In thinking how I could incorporate my 34,000 Lives project into my presentation at Wrenshall, I decided to create the Wrenshall Challenge (#WrenshallChallenge).

The Wrenshall Challenge is this: Each person recognizes through their actions, attitude and words, they have a powerful impact, and they CHOOSE to impact those around them in a positive way. This includes being an active member of the team. It also includes choosing to be responsible with situations such as social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). Pictures and posts are positive. They are not humiliating, hurtful or mean spirited.

To kick off the Wrenshall Challenge, I began posting positive thoughts and pictures to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I did this before I arrived in Wrenshall, because the moment I connected with Ms. Belcastro the Wrenshall Challenge began – she challenged me to believe I could have a powerful, positive impact on her students, and she took a stand to be a part of my team and do what she could to empower me. How awesome is that?

My #WrenshallChallenge posts continued as I got to town. I posted a pictures of the Wrenshall Welcomes You sign. The caption read: A beautiful day here in #Wrenshall #Minnesota. I’m about to meet some really amazing people!

From the school parking lot I snapped a shot of myself smiling and posted to Instagram and Facebook: #kindness #leadership and a whole new chapter of #possibility. Eeee! I’m so excited. Lets do this! Ow-ow-ow!

Then I took a deep breath, opened my truck door, pulled out my bag and enlarged photos, and I made my way to the door of the school. Once inside I spotted a huge colorful sign that read: Welcome to Wrenshall Heidi Schauer. I couldn’t believe it. Welcome to Wrenshall Heidi Schauer. I got a little lump in my throat and I smiled instantly. I also snapped a picture and shared with others how great my welcome to Wrenshall was.

Pushing the buzzer, I announced who I was and a loud noise signaled the doors had been unlocked. Opening one, I walked into the hallway and down to the main office where Eric Holter, the school counselor, introduced himself. He then showed me where we would be setting up in the commons area. With several classrooms on either side, a lot of light, and room for many chairs, the commons area was perfect. I loved the large piece of artwork on the wall, and the banner that said Wrenshall and had a Wren mascot. While I set down my bag and set up my pictures, Mr. Holter went to get Ms. Belcastro.

If, after I speak, even one student knows how important and powerful they are and that they truly, truly CAN do big, big things in this world; if one student knows and believes that – my time here was worth it, I thought to myself. To impact one person is a great accomplishment.

Standing in front of 170 empty chairs I tried to imagine 170 smiling faces. The thought of it made me giddy. I pulled at the bottom of my blouse, straightened my sweater, adjusted my belt. Kindness and leadership. It really is such a big deal. The sun streaked in and before I knew it, Ms. Belcastro appeared.

“You are exactly what I pictured,” she said, smiling while she walked toward me.

“I’m so excited to be here!” I assured her as I reached her and gave her a hug.

“Yeah, so this is it. Isn’t it great?” she asked, showing me the commons area.

“Yeah, it’s perfect.”

Inspired by Beth, the woman who leads my Landmark course and uses a music stand which is easily adjustable, I requested a music stand instead of any sort of podium. While we grabbed one from the band room, Ms. Belcastro filled me in on when the students would arrive and what the day would sort of look like: after my presentation I would have some time to spend with the students while they ate lunch. In high school I hated navigating where I would eat or who I would sit with during lunch. I had that same feeling of “What if I end up sitting alone” for a second, but then I remembered: incredible school, incredible students, incredible staff.

With about forty-five minutes until students would begin sitting in chairs, I thought about my outline and all that I hoped to share, and Ms. Belcastro introduced me to every single community member who passed by. Teachers, janitorial staff, students – they were all important to her. She knew every single person’s name, and she had something nice to say about every single one of them.

Around 10 a.m. the students started to file in and sit. While Ms. Belcastro stood up near the music stand, I asked some of the students in the back rows to be greatly brave and move forward filling chairs that were empty toward the front. They were reluctant, but they did it.

Ms. Belcastro introduced me explaining that she had found my website, and when she had found my website, she wondered who is this girl and what is she doing with this 34,000 Lives project? Then she let me share what I had come to share.

While moments before I had wondered what I would do if I got nervous and nothing came out when it was my turn to speak, that didn’t happen. I knew from the moment I met Ms. Belcastro and Mr. Holter that both of them were rooting for me, and knowing they were on my team and in my corner made a difference. I figured even if it were the worst hour of my life, it would only be one hour. I could leave, go get some ice cream, and forget I ever went to Wrenshall if anything terrible, awful happened. But nothing terrible, awful happened. With all the confidence that I was about to have a pleasantly unforgettable experience, I smiled and said, “Hellooooooo, Wrenshall!”

For an hour and ten minutes I shared my thoughts and stories: The power the students have to create and develop a positive environment; who I am now and who I was in high school; how each of them – if they like to read and write or not – is an author; how I can relate to a Cicada; and how I believe, with the members of my team, I am an unstoppable human being. We covered it all. For the most part, the students generously listened and participated, which was awesome because an hour-long presentation can be very . . . long.

As we were reaching the one hour mark, we had to break so 8th grade could go to lunch. Some students chose to stick around for an additional few minutes while we wrapped up. Others moved to seats closer to me. One student leaned forward on his chair and mouthed, “You’re doing great. Keep going,” giving me thumbs-up. That was so great. I knew no matter what I had reached my goal of a message that resonated with at least one person.

After I shared what high school was like for me, how I have and continue to grow as a person, and what I am up to with my 34,000 Lives project, I asked the students at Wrenshall to help me recognize Ms. Belcastro for being someone who believes in and empowers others. I then presented Ms. Belcastro with an award I created earlier in the year to recognize really extraordinary people.

Reading from the framed award I said, “In recognition of excellence in kindness and leadership, 34,000 Lives presents the Colored Feather Award of Hope and Belief.” Smiling, I continued, “to Ms. Kimberly Belcastro for empowering others to believe in themselves and let some of their most beautiful colors shine.”

I then thanked Ms. Belcastro for becoming a part of my life story, because without her belief that I, a stranger, had something really great to share with her students, I would not have had the fantastic speaking opportunity I had at the Wrenshall Public School. I knew if she was willing to take that sort of stand for someone she doesn’t know, she would go to even further lengths for someone she does know. Everyone should have in this life the great blessing of experiencing someone like Ms. Belcastro on their team. Not everyone will. That is why I chose to present Ms. Belcastro with an award before I ended my day at her school.

After I presented her award, she said a few more words and led her students and staff in thanking me for coming to their school. Then the students were dismissed for lunch.

Several boys and girls came up to say they were glad I came to their school. That was such a fantastic feeling. I remember what it was like to be in high school and oftentimes I would think, “Oh, that was cool,” but I didn’t always go tell the person. Going up and sharing what you think takes courage. I was proud of each of the students who came up to tell me they enjoyed their hour with me. I took a group picture with some of them, and then Ms. Belcastro and I walked back to her office.

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“You did a really great job,” she said.

“Oh, thanks.”

“Do you think you’ll do this? It was good. With a few tweaks – you could really do this.”

“I love it,” I said.

From the first moment I spoke to Ms. Belcastro I have loved her enthusiasm for my ability to share a story. It is contagious, and she leaves me inspired and feeling as if I could accomplish anything in this world – which I already believe, but somehow she makes me feel as if I could really, really do that (smile).

After a while she walked me down to the lunch room where she said hi to each student by name and smiled at the the staff.

I walked over and sat down by one of the girls asking, “Well, what did ya think?”

“It was good,” she said smiling.

Two boys stood up requesting everyone in the lunch room sing Happy Birthday to one of the ladies working, and next thing you knew, the room had filled with song. I loved it!

Students sat filling the table I was at, and while they ate they also told me how there was a big football game coming up, and their team is 4-0, and Wrenshall is the best school they have ever been to, and they really do have school spirit.

“This school saved my life,” one transfer student said with the deepest of sincerity.

“That’s awesome,” I said with the deepest of sincerity.

It is awesome. To be a part of a school that embraces and makes priority kindness and leadership in such a way every single person is seen, heard and valued – that is . . . AWESOME. To be a stranger hearing from not one, but several students, that their school is the greatest – well, that speaks pretty highly of the school and the people who are a part of it.

As the lunch hour ended and it came time for me to leave, I felt so incredibly honored to have had an afternoon at Wrenshall. To walk into a community I am in no way connected to and leave feeling as if I, too, am a part of it – that, my friends, is unforgettable.

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