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Future Teacher to Ride Bike to Rockies for Library Books

On August 1, Skyler Myers, Rockhurst University graduate student, will begin a nine-day solo bicycle ride to the Continental Divide to secure donations of new library books for the Kansas City, Missouri School District (KCMSD).

Myers will depart State Line Road and 39th Street at 9:25 a.m. to begin his ride along a route that will cover approximately 800 miles across Kansas and Colorado as it climbs nearly 9,000 feet in elevation to the Continental Divide at Cameron Pass in northern Colorado. He will end up at the top of Poudre Canyon (pronounced “Pooder” by locals) 60 miles west of Fort Collins.

Every $20 raised will purchase one new library book for the school district's 18,000 students. American Library Association award-winning titles and books in Spanish will be purchased for the District’s 54 schools.Myers,preparing for a profession in urban education, describes his rationale:

“It’s no surprise that kids who read regularly and are physically active perform better academically. As a future teacher myself, I want to set the kind of positive example that was set for me by teachers I admired. This ride provides a way to draw attention to reading and exercise in a way that will result in more school library books for kids to read.”

Myers himself has always been inspired by biographies, especially that of Magic Johnson. “The work ethic of the communities that make up the Kansas City, Missouri School District has always amazed me,” he says. “I live near the District, know the children and families, and hope to teach here someday.”

Myers will be sharing the story of the District with many. He has attended grades 1-6 in Ft. Collins, and interned at a radio station not far from the town. This is his second bicycle trip to Colorado. Inspired by the book “The Last Cattle Drive” by Robert Day, he decided to make the journey from Lawrence, Kan., to Fort Collins last year.

The Kansas City Missouri, School District has enthusiastically embraced Myers's vision. “The Hands of Hope project rallied the community around our schools and this is a perfect extension of the mission to prepare environments conducive to learning,” stated Superintendent Dr. John Covington. “Grounds and classrooms are ready thanks to thousands of volunteers. Now we hope to stock libraries with books. Skyler is giving of himself to this community and we thank him for it.”

Radio stations and television networks between here and Colorado have already lined up interview time with the adventurous cyclist. Myers will be contacting local newspapers along the way, and friends, as well as community members, can keep up with the adventure on twitter bicyclist4books or facebook. To make a donation to the book drive, visit www.childrensplusinc.com and click on the icon titled “Up 9,000 ft., across 800 miles, for 9,800 books.”

Join Skyler and friends at 39th and State Line at 8:35 a.m. for a preparatory celebration and overview of his route. The Bike-off for “Pooder Pass” is at 9:25 a.m. and Skyler returns on August 11. Watch for the welcome home gala at 4 p.m. on Friday Aug. 14 at Harpers on the Vine, 1601 E. 18th St., Kansas City.

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Added: July 31, 2009. 11:17 AM CDT
PR Claptrap?
Let me say first that I admire this young man and his enthusiasm for making a difference in the lives of kids. The cynic in me says that this self-aggrandizing gesture is a resume builder for a future run for public office.

It has never seemed to me that the KCMSD library budget was in jeopardy or that kid’s around the district are doing without books. I think the district is remiss in not making a public statement about the money they do have for the purchase of new library books in light of the lack of money suggested by this young graduate student. Instead, they are piggy-backing on the publicity this young man is receiving and enjoying it.

District libraries and classrooms are filled with underutilized books and computers. A huge amount of this money comes from Federal Title I funds. Librarians have a variety of sub-categories under their budget umbrellas and seem to have a surplus amount of money for the things they need. Librarians regularly beg teachers to submit book and video wish lists in order to spend all the money. By the same token librarians yearly discard enough out of date books to put any rural librarian into a state of nirvana.

Recent media articles have also included references to "volunteers" preparing school rooms for the opening of school. This is supposed to be an automatic part of the job description of the Building Manager, his staff, and the Maintenance Department. On a two hour task, maintenance workers spend another two smoking cigarettes and shooting the breeze with the custodians. Travel time between buildings often includes running personal errands (“I had to walk my dog”).

I don't know that "feel good" stories in the media do much to call attention to the possible financial plight of any school district. With the exception of the parents in Independence last year who volunteered to clean up those awful, terrible,
dirty, messed-up, run-down schools they wrested from the KCMSD in mid-summer, I don't recall stories of other school districts recruiting volunteers to do what is ordinarily considered to be the work of the district. If a district is having financial problems they need to resort to other methods of calling attention to their plight.

I find it embarrassing (demeaning?) for our school district to be in the news with the appearance of its hat in its hand, ready to receive the financial contributions of someone who thinks the KCMSD is so short of funds that he is riding his bicycle to raise money to purchase library books and a district eager to accept the labor and sweat of parents who are willing to paint and clean in order to get their children's classrooms ready for another school year. It makes you wonder how other districts manage to do these same things without taking up a public offering of wealth or work.
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