By Dena Wilson


December 3, 2009

At AEL Summer Institute this past year Dusty Parrish and I began talking about doing a joint service project with our students. Afterall, statistics show that students are 60% less likely to get into serious trouble if they are involved in meaningful service projects. We didn’t know exactly what, but his students could use their skill to document while mine could design and create. We both agreed we wanted something that would enhance another student’s education.
While we were mulling this around I remembered seeing a documentary that Diane Sawyer did on the children from the Appalachian Mountain areas and their dire circumstances. She talked about schools that literally had no books or supplies….so the idea of a alphabet coloring book was born.
It was a great match since I was just beginning to teach my first year students Adobe Illustrator – a perfect tool for creating coloring pages. With a little trial and error, and some help from previous students, we developed a template for the booklets. Acrobat Pro 9 was perfect for compiling and printing.
For older kids, my upper level students created a journal/sketch book using Illustrator, each one coming up with prompts for either writing or drawing something. EVERYONE got involved in designing covers using Photoshop and Illustrator.
During the process, we started to learn a lot about the kids who would be receiving the books. We selected an elementary school with great need. Of its 400 students, roughly 90% are at or below poverty level. Our school is just the opposite, about 10% at poverty level or below.
In addition, we started trying to gather colored pencils to send with the alphabet books. Target totally stepped up to help make affordable 400 boxes, one for each child. A friend knew a printer who would be reasonable – it turns out he had ties back to the Appalachian Mountains and donated his services. Several of my peers just donated money. A student’s father worked for a company that is shipping them for us….. and the list goes on and on.
Dusty and his students came over and documented the process. His students interviewed mine, as well as me, asking insightful, intelligent questions about the project. Now they are in the process of compiling and editing the video using Premiere, Aftereffects, Sound booth, Encore, etc . All great teaching opportunities for skill as well as teamwork/compassion. It was incredible to have the students work together, the excitement was contagious.
We really started out with a vision and a passion coupled with almost no idea what to do or how to do it. Funny, though, when you are going about doing good works – things seem to take on a life of their own simply falling into place. For me, that’s called heart.