Nancy’s message to The Chamber’s leadership group last month was an effort to prepare us for our anticipated Junior Achievement experience. For me, it was right on the money. My morning with Mr. Weaver’s fifth grade class at Madison Elementary held countless moments of amazement. The kids listened intently to our explanation of free enterprise, then bubbled over with as much innovation and imagination as any entrepreneur I’ve had the pleasure to meet.
Putting your presentation skills to the test in front of kids is brilliant really. You will never be more challenged to keep an audience engaged and communicate your ideas effectively. You will know the precise moment you are no longer interesting. You’ll be painfully aware if your message isn’t making sense. And you will be challenged with questions that will prove if you know at all what you are talking about.
You will also be richly rewarded when you connect with an attentive crowd of bright smiling young faces, the kids eagerly raising their hands to share their ideas and dreams. The experience will test your flexibility, patience, knowledge, confidence and sincerity. I am sure this has been the most valuable lesson in presentation skills I have experienced.
We spent the other half of our day touring the Great Plains Food Bank and packing boxes of food to be shipped around the state to hungry people. Our visit was punctuated by sobering statistics:
- One in 11 people in North Dakota seek emergency food assistance each year.
- For every $1 donated, the food bank distributes $11 of food (five meals) to someone in need.
- The Cass Clay BackPack program has nearly doubled in size since last year, now serving 750 children. But during the 2010-11 school year, there are 7,063 students in our region’s school districts who qualify.
- 81% of the students at Madison Elementary qualify for the Free and Reduced Meal Program
We were packing food for the very students we had spent our morning with. Our tour guide cradled a small plastic bag of food explaining that it contained enough for four snacks and four meals for a child. She patted the package absentmindedly as she told us that it was designed to be small and light enough to fit inside a child’s backpack. The contents were purposefully low to no preparation required… kid friendly. Because, she said, kids who aren’t coming to school hungry on Monday morning learn better.
In some cases, stimulating a child’s mind and encouraging their dreams is the easy part.