Since this is my last “Midwest Musings” post for a while, I’d like to take this opportunity to honor another author, Talia Leman, who wrote A Random Kid, the Power of Anyone. Last fall, she and I celebrated the launch of our respective books about the same time. Talia was 16 and I was…somewhat older. Talia has also been my neighbor since her birth. She is now headed off to her freshman year at Stanford University in California after being named valedictorian at Roosevelt HIgh Schol in Des Moines this past spring. As she departs, she takes with her an incredible resume of accomplishments for one so young. I’d like to share some of that story with you in hopes it might serve as inspiration to you, no matter your age.
Before I do, though, the first thing I want you to know about her is that she is a very down-to-earth, friendly and caring young woman. This past summer, the enterprising Ms. Leman asked to join our garage sale with some of the things she and her brother no longer needed. For a time, I joined her in our driveway, where she’d set up shop with her card table, and watched with fascinated interest how she interacted with the kids who came to examine her ten-cent toys while their parents wandered off elsewhere. She would be an excellent child psychologist or elementary education teacher, because she absolutely clicked with them.
Eight years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, wreaking terrible devastation to the residents of that area of the country as well as causing horrible destruction of land and property. Those of us in other parts of this country saw daily, hourly broadcasts reporting Katrina’s wrath and wished we could do something to help. One young nine-year-old wasn’t content to just sit by. She began by collecting money locally as part of Halloween celebrations. But that wasn’t enough. She organized other kids in town and then around the country to band together to raise money to help. Their efforts raised over $10 million.
But that wasn’t enough for Talia. Seeing how successful these kids-helping-other-kids efforts were, she decided to apply this principle, along with her mother, Dana, and Annie Ginther, to an ongoing organization which eventually became RandomKid. The purpose of RandomKid is to educate, mobilize, unify and empower youth to directly impact local and global needs. Since its inception, the non-profit organization has brought together over 12 million kids in some 20 countries in such world-changing efforts as funding water pumps, building schools and providing medical care.
For her efforts, Talia has received the National Jefferson Award (along with fellow recipients Marlo Thomas and Ruth Bader-Ginsberg), World of Children’s Founder’s Youth Award, and the International Youth Talent Award from the European Union and the Spanish government of Extremadura. RandomKid has been designated a United Nations Champion of Intercultural Innovation.
It has been such a privilege to watch this young woman grow up. She will suspend her duties at RandomKid while she attends college, but by now, the organization can operate on its own. This idea grew from the simple premise that kids can make a difference. Just imagine what great ideas and accomplishments lie ahead for her in her college years and beyond.
To learn more about RandomKid, go to http://randomkid.org.
The Sleepover Clause
And He Cooks Too