I spoke to the stars the other day — the stars of Hope and Hempstead County. I’m referring, of course, to the sterling students of Hope Academy of Public Service (HAPS), a new school in Hope teaching students 5-9th grade the value of serving their community.
Having grown up in Hope, I was honored when Dr. Duke asked me to give the commencement address at the year-end ceremony honoring the HAPS students. Not only did this give me the chance to be around a group of smart, young people who want to help others, it also allowed me to spend the day in Hope learning about this new endeavor that has become the talk of Hempstead County.
A couple of years ago, Dr. Carol AnnDuke was asked by the superintendent of the Hope School District to start a school with a focus on public service. And in the last two years, she and her staff have done a tremendous job with the task. They have already fostered stars among their students and they will only continue to develop in the years to come.
To call the school and its students innovative is an understatement. As the students sought ways to give back to their community, they found a large volume of unused equipment in an old school building. They decided to organize the supplies and hold a community auction, the proceeds of which went to buy equipment for their ESTEM classroom. In another example of the school’s inventiveness, after realizing the classrooms did not have enough space for traditional laboratory equipment, they decided to use special computer monitors with 3-D glasses to allow students to perform virtual laboratory experiments (they even dissected a frog using this 3-D modeling!).
Thanks to Dr. Duke, an old, vacant elementary school has been totally transformed into a new opportunity of learning for young kids in Hope. And through their outstanding work, Dr. Duke and her team have combined the idea of serving the community with pursuing academics. And you can tell that the students are drawn to it.
I was grateful that the local newspaper covered the commencement speech. This is a brief excerpt from the newspaper.
Those students were admonished by Hempstead County native and Little Rock attorney Jim Jackson to shine like the starlight in the rural Arkansas night sky.
“Everything you see in the night sky is old light,” Jackson said. “William Shakespeare was writing Romeo and Juliet when that light left that you see now.”
He said the travel of light across the galaxy is measured in “light years,” accounting for the time required to traveling space before being seen on Earth. The nearest star, Jackson said, is four light-years distance, requiring four years for its light to travel to Earth.
Jackson, a graduate of Hope HighSchool and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School ofLaw, urged the students to shine through the darkness in life in a journey that will require a lifetime, and will enlighten despite doubts and difficulties.
“When you arrive, there will be people who say, ‘Wow, look at that star,’” he said.