This past weekend, Alpha Chi National College Honor Society hosted delegates from all across the country in the historic city of Baltimore, Maryland. I work part-time in the National Office, so I came on board to help with student presentations and social media during the convention. I spent much of the weekend in a hurry, constantly rushing around the hotel and running errands.  I was looking forward to a short break after the sessions had ended, when I remembered that I had signed up to attend Alpha Chi’s afternoon service project with Reading Is Fundamental to take pictures for our social media outlets. I will admit that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. I was exhausted and looking forward to some down time, but I packed my gear and hurried to meet up with the rest of the group. Our group of 18 split up and took several cabs to an area that was close to our hotel in location, but worlds apart in atmosphere. We walked into the school and were instantly overcome by our surroundings. It was entirely different than the elementary schools most of us had attended growing up. We were guided into the cafeteria where the RIF staff briefed us on the order of events for the afternoon we would spend in the classrooms of Inner Harbor East Academy.

We gathered our craft kits, some books to read aloud, and a bundle of brand new children’s books donated by Alpha Chi undergraduates, graduate students, and advisers and we walked to our designated rooms.  We were divided into smaller groups so we could split up between eight different classes ranging in age from kindergarten to second grade. One of the first things I noticed upon walking into the classroom was that each student was dressed in a school uniform. However, the neatly pressed blue shirts and polished khaki bottoms were an insufficient mask, and the weight of life experience was visible in each child’s eyes. Alpha Chi volunteers sat in front of each classroom and read a story to a noticeably captive audience, especially considering their young ages. The kids hung on every word and actively participated with contagious enthusiasm.

After story time, each child had the opportunity to work on a craft that correlated to the story they had just heard. Being the photographer, I had the privilege of moving from room to room and experiencing each of the different classes and age groups. Throughout the afternoon, I sat at several tiny tables across from children ages five to eight, and little pieces of their stories started coming out. I learned about parents, brothers, sisters, and best friends. I admired their handiwork. I told them how talented they were as I watched them create. One little boy held up his artwork and exclaimed, “Hey! Look at this!” I told him how lovely it was, and though we had just met, his instant reaction was wrapping his arms around my waist in a big hug. As I snapped one little girl’s photo, I watched her face light up as I acknowledged how beautiful she was. I couldn’t help by wonder how often they received that kind of affirmation.

Though I loved each aspect of the visit, my favorite part came during the book giveaway. In each classroom we spread out the various children’s books we had collected, and we invited each student to choose whichever book they would like. The kids lined up and asked where the checkout form was, so they could sign their names. You can imagine their elation when we told them that the books were theirs to keep. One boy in particular simply could not believe the book was his. “You mean, I get to
take this book home with me? To my house? It’s mine?” he said.  In another classroom, I was sitting at a table helping organize and give away books. As each child approached the table, their teacher told us the child’s specific interests and favorite things. “He really likes cars! She loves shopping and all kinds of girly things! He likes spooky stories!” Each child was different, and she never said the same interest more than once. She had truly invested in her students and she knew each of them intimately. I tried to verbalize how impressed I was with her act of love, but my words didn’t seem to do justice. Her passion for her students touched my heart deeply. As one boy walked up, the teacher told me that he loved creepy crawly animals. “I think I have something perfect for you,” I told him, as I held up a book about reptiles. “This book has your name written all over it!” His smile grew wide and he said, “This book has my name everywhere!” He clutched it to his chest and hurried back to his seat with his newfound treasure.

My experience at Inner Harbor East Academy ignited a new passion for placing books in the hands of children. Books are powerful. They open up the world to kids who haven’t been told that the world can be opened up. After spending some precious time sitting at miniature tables with some very special kids, I recognize a significant need in our country. Because of my experience with RIF, I want to use my talents to help those Baltimore schoolchildren who reached into my busy weekend and captured my heart with their passionate eagerness to learn.

Heidi A.Tabor, March 24th
Arkansas Eta Member, Spring 2012


Hi, all,

Just two days before convention and I am packing up.  Just a couple of updates:

1.  Sharyn McCrumb will have SIX titles available for sale and signing Thur at registration and right after her speech:  St. Dale (about the Daytona 500 and its patron saint); She Walks These Hills and The Ballad about Frankie Silver (with story lines taken from history and Appalachian ballads); Ghost Riders (about the War Between the States and Zebulon Vance); and her latest, The Ballad of Tom Dooley.  I love them all.  Being a Tennessee-Carolina girl, I love Frankie Silver and She Walks These Hills.  I have heard these “stories” growing up and they used to scare the daylights out of me; the music, of course, is haunting.  TOM DOOLEY, everybody my age remembers, was popularized as a song by the Kingston Trio.  I could not put it down–staying up half the night to finish.  Sharyn has created a real monster, a misfit sociopath in one character, but I don’t want to give too much away.  How she has constructed St. Dale is something only a SMART, AX-type could do!  Anyway, bring your own copies for buy them at the convention.

2.  Susan Fillion, our speaker on Friday morning, has written an exciting narrative about art history.  She traces how Baltimore Museum of Art has come to own so many works of Matisse and other impressionists.  The story itself is fascinating and it really goes to show that what your mother said was true:  it never hurts to be nice to people.  You never know when one might turn out to be the next Matisse.  She will have copies as well and some of you may want to explore the museum while you are in Baltimore.

3.  Our literacy service project:  SOOOOO bring your books to the Registration desk on THUR.  Two RIF staff, Nikki and Kathryn, will be there collect them.  We need a little help plating the books, so if you have 15minutes to help us, we’d appreciate it.  We ALSO have some books to sell if you decided to buy on site.  Our books are $4.00 each.  MOBILE and BRIDGEWATER, we have yours!  Our Lipscomb friends will take pictures of the project itself. 18 of us will be in pre-k-2nd grade classes at Inner Harbor Academy. We’ll do a read-aloud and a motivational activity and end with a book distribution.  Last year we donated about 1000 books!!  Only one poor child in 300 owns a book, so this is a good thing AX is doing!  Should be a wonderful experience!

 To enhance everyone’s convention experience this year, we’re encouraging all delegates to observe the following “rules” of convention etiquette:
* Enter and leave a presentation room only during the 3-minute break between presentations; if a discussion period follows a presentation, you may leave at that time in order to get to a presentation in another room.
* Even though the doors should be closed during each presentation, while waiting outside a room for the next presentation or walking past a session in progress, be as quiet as possible.
* If you are a presenter:
   — Regardless of your place in the section, arrive a couple of minutes before the start of the section and identify yourself to the faculty presider.
   — Stay within the 12-minute time limit for your presentation. You will be cut off if you do not.
   — As a courtesy to your fellow students, plan to be present for the other presentations in your section.
   — Because this a professional academic setting, you’ll find that most presenters will wear professional attire.
   — Also, be prepared in case of technical problems with equipment; have a backup plan that will allow you to proceed if the technology fails.
 *Lastly, be a patient and pleasant audience member. 85% of the student delegates you’ll meet this week are on the program.

The extremely helpful concierge gave me a full page of restaurants within walking distance (and another page of places within a mile or so — definitely within walking distance for college students.  In fact, it is probably a good idea to walk the half mile to Little Italy so you can take advantage of all the pasta.)

Here are some — in no particular order.

At Harborplace (remember that’s attached by a skywalk to our hotel) besides the usual suspects like McDonald’s and Starbucks, there is Cheesecake Factory, Edo Sushi, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, La Tasca, Lenny Deli, M & S Grill, Oasis, Tir Na Nog Irish Restaurant and Pub, and Uno Chicago Grill.

Let me mention also — Sullivan’s, right next door, great steak house; Miss Shirley’s, a phenomenal breakfast place, ask anyone on the convention committee; McCormick & Schmick’s (an upscale chain, but good seafood, even in a town famous for it); anything in Little Italy, especially Chiapparelli’s or Sabatino’s; Bertha’s, in the funky, fun Fells Point area, a cross between a tourist attraction and a great seafood restaurant; Obrycki’s Crab House, 1727 E. Pratt St., a Baltimore institution; Uncle Lee’s Chinese; Samos, a little further, authentic neighborhood Greek, 600 S. Oldham St.; the Hard Rock Cafe you can see from the hotel; the Power House places for food and music, and, of course, the James Joyce Pub on President St.

See you soon — I’ll be the one with a fork in my hand.

A little over one week until the Star-Spangled Convention!  Today I’d like to mention things to see right around the Inner Harbor.

1. Harborplace and Gallery — An upscale, 2 story mall, with lots shopping (don’t miss the Best of Baltimore shop), many food stands and restaurants (you MUST have a crabcake in Baltimore), and many forms of entertainment, from spontaneous “street” performances to a wide variety of nightlife.  Best of all, it’s attached to the Hyatt by a skybridge.

2. The National Aquarium — That’s National as in U.S.A. The Aquarium is huge and has many examples of sea life that you can’t see anywhere else.

3. The Maryland Science Center — March 23 is the last Friday after Five, $8 adission from 5 to 8 p.m., includes IMAX, planetarium, live science, and all the exhibits.

4. Historic Ships in Baltimore — These ring the harbor, from the Hyatt to the Aquarium.  the ships you can visit include the U.S.S. Constellation, a WWII submarine, and a Coast Guard Cutter.

These are all directly on the harbor. You can squeeze at least one of these in between registration and dinner.  Another activity is just to ride the Charm City Circulator, a free shuttle that loops the area and is a good way to get an overview.

It is 4:30 here, and I am getting hungary, so tomorrow I will probably give some restaurant suggestions.

See you very soon!


Tomorrow is the Day

Tuesday, 2/28, is the deadline for registering your chapter’s delegation to attend Alpha Chi’s 2012 Super-Regional Convention in Baltimore, March 22-24. It is also the deadline for the submission of presentation requests by any student delegate wanting to make a convention presentation. Lastly, tomorrow is the final day to guarantee your Hyatt rooms at the conference rates. (Clickable links below.)
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