“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Sometimes someone gives you a gift, something so unbelievably considerate that it takes a few moments to process the depth of the emotion you feel. It is in these rare moments that we experience the true capacity of human generosity and the joy of a being the recipient of such immense thoughtfulness. In this way we are changed a little forever, and more, the gift lives on to inspire and capture the attention of all who encounter it.
This type of experience happened to me a few weeks ago, and as such is usually the case, it was completely unexpected. This semester I have had the fortunate opportunity to teach a Gateway Scholar section of College Success Seminar 101 at Truman College. Every meeting of this class provides special hours to engage a wonderful group of highly motivated students. Having been in the field of Adult Education for many years and working with Gateway Scholars since the inception of the Gateway to the City Colleges of Chicago Program, I have had more than my fair share of incredible experiences, but what happened at Truman on the second Friday of October was nothing short of magical.
As is usual for a College Success Seminar 101 course, I assigned a demonstration speech to the Truman Gateway Scholars at our first meeting. The students could choose the topic of their speech with the goal being to teach the class something as they practiced their public speaking skills. Each student had to decide what talent or skill they would share with their fellow students. My students, Tram Nguyen and Nhi Nguyen (best friends who share the same last name) made plans to deliver their speech together.
The speech started off standard enough. They shared a Japanese legend of a girl named Hoshi who was disappointed by the falling stars in the night sky. She decided to fold a paper star for each falling star and in doing this would capture the luck of the real star by placing the paper one in a jar. We were then each given a thin strip of colored paper and Tram and Nhi guided us in the folding of star. First, each of us had to write a wish or dream for the future on the white side of the paper strip. Then we started folding the paper slowly into a star shape. Even with excellent instruction, I failed miserably on the first attempt. With the second strip of paper I managed to fold a perfect little star, no more than 1/4″ high. It was so tiny, and with poor eyesight and big fingers, this was a quite an accomplishment.
After everyone in the class was assisted with creating their own star, Tram and Nhi shared the second part of the legend. According to tradition, to have a dream come true and to give the most powerful wish of luck, you must fold 999 stars and place them in a jar. Each star must have a wish and each must be folded with concentration and care. Tram and Nhi opened a little wider the bag on the table in the front of the classroom, and there it was. A glass jar filled near to the brim with colorful miniature stars that Tram, with the help of Nhi, had folded. There were 999 stars in the jar, each carefully folded and carrying a separate wish for a Gateway Scholar and the Gateway Program.
Tram and Nhi handed the jar to me. I literally was speechless and totally unable to form the words of gratitude needed in that moment. I have received many precious gifts, selected with great care and thought, but none compares to this. Even now, weeks later, I am still without the ability to truly express my gratitude for this completely thoughtful and selfless gesture. I thought then and do now that the best way to show my thankfulness would be to share the stars.
I took the glass jar of folded stars to the CCC District Office and first shared it with the Gateway Program Implementation Team. We each even attempted to fold our own star. This proved only to show the difficulty and necessary time it would take to fold 999. The jar now sits high on a cabinet and at first glance one would think it was filled with so many colorfully wrapped candies. There is something stronger though about this simple glass jar with its many colored contents that grabs the attention of others, the way a diamond might in a jewelry store window or a masterpiece on a museum wall. As with these other things, I like to call it magic from within.
Since it was put on display, many people have stopped to ask about the jar and to inquire of the contents. Many others just seem to stare at it for a while as they pass by, perhaps a bit shy to ask just what is exactly in the jar. For those who do ask, we share the story of the stars, the students who made them, and the Gateway Program. We have had such a positive response to the sharing of these stars and the story behind them that we decided to write this blog entry. This is how the power of this gift grows beyond the change it has made in my own life to an opportunity to inspire others. For CCC, our students, and ourselves the magic is in the transformation. Like a flat strip of paper changing with each turn of the hand into a star, we are becoming a little better each day.
- Kevin Scavuzzo, Teaching and Learning Task Force
Filed under: Adult Education, Delivery, Implementation, Programs, Reinvention, Teaching & Learning | Tagged: Adult Education, City Colleges of Chicago, Delivery, Gateway, Recommendations, Reinvention | Leave a Comment »