It is stunning to see how far these children from foreign cultures advance from year to year. The work is incredibly rewarding.
Judy was born in Independence, Missouri, (President Harry Truman's hometown), graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in elementary education, and has lived and worked in Missouri all her life. She is Superintendent of Della Lamb Charter School, which for Judy is much more than a job, it's her passion. Judy's daughter Melinda, also a volunteer at Della Lamb Community Services, will join her on the cruise.
Judy came upon Della Lamb Community Services 33 years ago, decided to help out for a couple of weeks with grant writing and administrative support, and never left. She is now Executive Director of Della Lamb Community Services and Superintendent of the Charter School. Both are big jobs. Della Charter School is open year-round and serves low income K-8 children primarily from refugee families. About 70% of their children come from different cultures and speak little English at enrollment. Among the 19 languages spoken are Asian, Tribal African, Middle-Eastern and Hispanic. As Judy says, "It's a microcosm of humanity!"
There are 5 School Rules: Be Safe. Be Kind. Be Peaceful. Be Respectful. Be Responsible. The kids are all that and more. After a couple of years, the kids speak English like "old pros" and show remarkable improvement in year-to-year test scores. That's what safe, structured, encouraging environments can do. Says Judy: "I sometimes deal with disciplinary issues, but that's rare. Mostly, I get hugs when I walk the hallways, and that's the best payment of all."
Judy's work does more than integrate youngsters into American life. It supports the whole family. They teach parents to speak, read, and write in English. They also teach night classes in U.S. citizenship, academics, and job skills. Over time, the kids help the parents learn. "This is one of the most diverse schools in the country," says Judy, "so sometimes we have to do things differently. Overall, the success of our program is remarkable, and the long-term payoff for our community - and for the U.S. - is unquestionable. These parents are grateful to be in America - not unlike our own ancestors. They work multiple part-time jobs and come to school day/night to secure citizenship and work. I'd probably stay another 33 years, if I could."