April 6, 2012

Putting a Smile on Their Little Faces

Putting a smile on a kid's face is something I do nearly every day.  I'm not try to make myself sound cooler than I am, it's just part of my job.  Possibly even one of the best parts of my job. And while it makes me happy to see that smile, it makes me even happier to know that that smile is there because that kid has been given a new and exciting experience.

When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to have been given opportunities and experiences that helped shape the path I chose to take, and ultimately the person I am today.  I remember in elementary school taking a trip to the Toronto Zoo, despite it being 3 hours away.  Because of my zoo experience, I figured it was a given that every child in Anchorage had been to the zoo in their own city.  Before every program, on or off zoo grounds, I always ask who has been to the zoo.  Most hands shoot up with excitement. However, I quickly realized that not every one is as fortunate, not all students raise their hands.  This shocked me.  

However, thanks to a generous sponsorship from ExxonMobil, we were able to change this.  For the second year now, we were able to make visiting the Alaska Zoo a reality for many 1st grade students from various lower income elementary schools in Anchorage that do not have the means to bring their students to the Zoo.  Activities they completed during their visit tied directly into their science curriculum.  They not only learned about Alaskan animals, they got to experience them up close. I think the polar bears were by far the biggest celebrities of the day.

Over the course of 2 days last week, I helped put a smile on the faces of 1300 1st graders (and nearly 300 adults, whether they want to admit it or not). They were given an experience they will never forget.  And that makes me extremely happy.

Photos  ©Marla Wales 2012

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