Correctly answer 25 addition and subtraction problems in one minute. Seems easy enough, right? It's something that you might have had to do when you were in elementary school.
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Well, to make the challenge a little harder, add in 20 screaming second graders. This is what I walked into when asked to have lunch with Ms. Annika's 2nd grade class in their classroom at Sojourner Truth Academy in North Minneapolis, MN.
Video: Makeover lifts spirits at tornado-ravaged school (on this page)
The students at Sojourner Truth Academy spent the first two weeks of the school year eating in their classrooms. That's because a team of contractors from Welsh Construction and designers from Martha O'Hara Interiors and I were in the midst of renovating the school’s cafeteria, which was still reeling from when the school was struck by an E2 tornado last May. Although crews had been working tirelessly all summer to get the school back in condition to open its doors for the new year, the cafeteria had yet to be touched. That’s where we came in.
George to the Rescue's first attempt at helping a school was a smashing success. We gutted the cafeteria from floor to ceiling and in its place we made sure that we truly were building for the future. We replaced old lights with new top-of-the-line Sylvania energy efficient bulbs. The new floor was Johnsonite VET tiles, which are made up of recycled material. And on the walls, we added a much-needed coat of paint. With a nice mixture of Benjamin Moore Aura Neon red and Smokey ember, the cafeteria got a clean, crisp new look.
But it wasn’t just the materials that got the job done; it was the people who came together in so many different ways to make this project possible, too. I had always heard about how great Midwesterners are — they greet you with a friendly smile and are quick to lend a helping hand. That was true from the moment we arrived until the moment we left.Story: In Joplin, a diner serves up shelter from the storm
Steve Barber, the safety guru from 3M, a local Minnesota company, treated us likes friends rather than clients and made sure everyone was properly outfitted with safety gear so that there was no chance of anyone getting hurt on the job site. And Maggie, the concierge at the Holiday Inn and Suites Maple Grove got so used to having us around the hotel that she gave me a birthday card while I was staying there.
When it was all said and done, I was very proud of what had been accomplished. The cafeteria is now state of the art, outfitted with educational tools that were on par with what you'd find in a college classroom as well as eco-friendly items such as a Maytag energy star washer/dryer set and two Mitsubishi HVAC systems from The Home Depot. However, the reward came when the students and faculty from STA saw their new cafeteria for the first time. Finally, their school repairs were finished and life could return to normal, which is the most important thing any teacher will tell you. One of the best moments from reveal day was when I overheard a third grader saying, “I love this school now!”
By the way, I aced the test, actually finishing in a blazing 15 seconds. Not that I would've known it. Time seemed to stand still as I pondered the correct answer for 8 minus 1. The pressure was intense!
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