Whitefoord Elementary School

This project was a result of me volunteering for a Metro Atlanta Chamber project called Principal for a Day. I was assigned an all-Black school in a low-income area in South Atlanta – Whitefoord Elementary.

When the NBC (WXIA-Atlanta) crew that filmed me explaining NetWeaving and Pay it Forward to a group of 3rd graders at Whitefoord Elementary School –they didn’t actually explain the exercises which I put the kids through.

I had asked Pat Lavant, the dynamic principal at Whitefoord, if I could try an experiment with all the classes from one grade she would select and talk to them in an assembly. I wanted to try teaching them what NetWeaving and Pay It forward was all about. She enthusiastically accepted. Pat chose 3rd grade and so I had about 65 kids in about 4 rows sitting in chairs in one assembly room in the school library..

First I had each of them stand up and introduce him or herself. I did no coaching and as you can imagine, there was a lot of foot-shuffling and mumbled names. After every child did this, we started back at the beginning, and I had each child stand up – paired with the child next to him or her – and each shook hands with the other person – making good eye contact – and introduced themselves – saying their name so it could be heard by all. We did that all around the room.

Then finally, I asked for volunteers and I brought 5 kids down front. Each had to pick one of his or her best friends and bring her or him down front. Then the two of them had to pick someone out of the audience whom neither of them knew, or knew well, and that child came down front. The two friends then took turns introducing their friend to the child who neither of them knew.

Well several weeks after I did these exercises, I received a poster-sized envelope with posters which the kids had made showing cartoons of themselves – introducing friends to each other and then ‘paying it forward’ so that their friend had to do the same thing for someone else.

I went back to Whitefoord that Fall and took a friend with me to see the magic of what’s happened with these two simple concepts. We first went into the 4th grade classes to see if my 3rd graders from last year remembered me and the concept. I’m pleased to report that I was greeted as somewhat of a cult hero.

Then we went back and did the same three exercises with this year’s 3rd graders and it was just as effective as last year’s group. We’ll plan on doing this each year forward.

When the first group of 3rd graders to whom I spoke about NetWeaving reached their 5th grade graduation to go on to Elementary and Middle School, I was there to present each of them their NetWeaving – Pay It Forward Diploma.

I repeated the exercises each year for the next 3 years and also attended the graduation ceremonies to present NetWeaving-Pay It Forward Diplomas.

“The Eyes Have It” – Project in which several Whitetoord students were felt to have vision problems, but didn’t have the money for an exam and possibly glasses. An African American Ophthalmologist – Dr. Eddie Harris – took 2-days out of his busy schedule to do the exams and several of the students needed glasses whose cost was covered by a grant from the Pay It Forward Foundation, on whose Board Bob served and became the first elected President, after Catherine Ryan Hyde – author of the book on which the movie classic was based, stepped down.

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