My main event, the Exceptional Learner’s Library grand opening, went underway on Friday, August 28! This week was definitely the most important for me! I am so relieved it went off without a hitch. Well, for the most part at least. There was only one minor hiccup: the fish. On the day of the opening, the tank had an overnight growth of algae and all the fish were huddling toward the bottom where there was more oxygen. Good news though, Karlene found a bottle of tank cleaner and they will be just fine.
So on the Wednesday before the grand opening, my parents and I hauled all the bookshelves, books, toys, and other supplies up stairs and into the car. Trying to fit everything into place was like playing Tetris in the trunk of a minivan. Any extra supplies we couldn’t fit in the van was stuffed into Karlene’s car. I was so excited that the project was finally happening! On Thursday after school, I rushed home to meet Karlene, my friend Vicky, and my family so we could hit the road. We took two cars. Karlene and I drove to the fish store to get guppies and supplies, and then we all went to Hazelwood Central Middle School in St. Louis to unload our cargo. Once we arrived at the school, we unloaded the books and shelves onto rolling carts and hauled them to the elevator and then to Cindy’s classroom. The bookshelves were put into place first followed by the fish tank. Karlene set up the tank and I decorated it. While the water was being filtered in, Vicky and I worked on shelving the books while my mom and dad stitched little bunny hand puppets together and took tags off of the toys. I sorted them into four different drawers and arranged them on the shelves.
Once everything was shelved and the fish were settled into their new home, I rolled out the carpets, arranged the pillows, and plugged in the lava lamps. The space looked amazing! After the actual library was set up, I tied it off with a red ribbon for the ribbon cutting ceremony the following day. The only thing left to do was set up the rolling library. For that I stacked my crates on a rolling cart and decorated the outside with multicolored streamers and foam stickers. Everyone else took a pizza break, but I was so excited that I forgot to eat. It was almost done! For the finishing touches, I hung the banner my sister had made several weeks prior above the bookshelves and decorated the space around it with little foam stars. After the last star was stuck into place, relief swept through me. All of that time working on every little detail had come together in a marvelous way. All of that hard work was worth something. I couldn’t wait to share it!
The next day, Vicky and I rushed home from school to get ready for the grand opening. I was so nervous! My aunt and uncle had come all the way down from Chicago to support me. As soon as I walked in the door, we all had to rush back out again. Karlene met us at Hazelwood and helped us set up some refreshments in Cindy’s classroom. I tried to prep myself while the Superintendent of the Hazelwood school district, the Superintendent of Special Education, the special education teachers, and the exceptional learners themselves filed in. As I got a chance to meet and talk with the kids, I relaxed completely. They were so friendly and very easy to talk to. I absolutely loved conversing with them. I showed them to their seats in the front row and the ceremony was ready to begin.
Cindy kicked off the event by introducing herself, me, and Karlene. She explained how I came across the project and how I managed to pull everything off (with help from friends, off course). Then, I selected one of the children to help me cut the ribbon. The library was officially open! Cindy asked the kids if they wanted me read a story to them, and it was a unanimous yes! I picked up “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose” from the shelf and began to read. As I read and showed them the pictures, the kids smiled and giggled with delight. It was silly and whimsical and they thoroughly enjoyed it! As soon as it ended, the kids rushed up to look at the other books and toys on the shelves. Their faces lit up when they found the sensory toys. One little boy kept rolling a flour-filled balloon between his hands. I presented my Girl Scout Gold Award plaque to both Superintendents and everyone enjoyed cookies and punch. All the kids enjoyed played games while I talked with the teachers and staff. The ceremony was a huge success!
I’m so glad everything went better than I had hoped for! It was an absolutely amazing experience and I have no regrets about it at all. Even though the main part of my project is over, there is still more to do. I won’t need to build another bookshelf (thank goodness), but I’ll need to complete my scrapbook and present it to Council. I hope that part will be smooth sailing. Time to get crafty again!