Please Support Aggie Kurzyna for New Britain Board of Education – the Best Choice for the Children

My friend and fellow CT activist Aggie Kurzyna needs two things from the people of New Britain CT.

First, she needs your signatures on her petition to run for the Board of Education. She needs to get 700 signatures of New Britain registered Democrats by August 12th.

The second thing she needs is your vote on primary day September 18th.

Please email Aggie at Aggiekurzyna@hotmail.com or visit her Facebook page if you want to sign her petition, pick up a petition to circulate, or just to get more information.

Also, Aggie will be on The War Report for Public Education Radio Show on Sunday August 2nd at 5 PM to talk about her platform and why she is trying to get elected to the Board of Education.

Below are Aggie’s own words. Please read and take action for the children and families of New Britain.

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“My name is Aggie Kurzyna and I am a petitioning candidate for the New Britain Board of Education. I am a parent, a grandparent and a lifelong New Britain resident who cares deeply about my community. I am taking the leap to run for a seat on the BOE as I have found education advocacy is my life’s purpose and passion.

My running mate, Violet Sims and I did not get the endorsement from the Democratic Town Committee this past Thursday, July 24th, 2015. Unfortunately, they chose to stick with the 3 incumbents who are currently sitting on the board. Their reasoning was its tradition to back the incumbents. Sounds like a pretty lame reason to me. Never did we discuss the issues and what everyone’s thoughts were about how to improve our schools. The decision was basically one of relationships and who knows who.

Violet and I are ready to take this race to the next level, which means that we have to petition for a primary election. This means that all registered democrats will be able to vote on Wednesday, September 16th on who they want represented on the New Britain Board of Education. In order for us to get to the vote in September we have to gather 700 signatures from registered democrats that live in New Britain by 4:00 PM Wednesday, August 12th.

For too many years, New Britain parents have struggled with trusting the New Britain school district. My mission once on the board of education will be to rebuild the trust between parents, students and the school district. Clearly, if families and schools are to form partnerships that work, there must first be a foundation of mutual trust, confidence, and respect.”

Here are more of her words from an article in the New Britain Herald:

“Kurzyna, a 40-year-old city native, said Wednesday, “We were not happy with the Democratic Town Committee process. There was no dialogue other than with the nominations committee, and that was a quick 20 minutes. There was no opportunity for me to talk about the issues with the greater town committee.”

With regard to school policies, Kurzyna, who served at various times on the governance councils at New Britain High School, DiLoreto School and Smith Elementary School, said, “I really want to focus on rebuilding parents’ trust. I don’t think the school district is going in the right direction.”

Specifically, Kurzyna, a project manager in IT for Hartford-based Phoenix Companies, said, “The elimination of dual language at DiLoreto was done behind closed doors. There was no transparency and no communication with parents.”

Another issue Kurzyna believes had a negative effect on students was eliminating bus transportation for elementary school students living less than one mile from school.

“There was no direct communication to parents that this was going to happen,” said Kurzyna. “Bus transportation is the best way kids get to school. The school district was trying to save money by doing this. In the winter time, especially, it’s dangerous for kids to walk to school.'”

There is no doubt it. Aggie will work to take our schools back from the corporate reformers and from political parties that have lost touch with the citizens. Please support Aggie as she fights for the children of New Britain CT.

 

Aggie’s Family:

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Listen to Aggie this Sunday on The War Report for Public Education radio show. Call in:
A direct listen-in line only
Station 1 – 716-748-0150
To call-in and interact live
Station 1 888-627-6008 toll free

 

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It’s Common Sense not Common Core by Stacy Stelmack Biscorner

It’s Common Sense not Common Core by Stacy Stelmack Biscorner

I’m a good teacher. I know how my students learn best. I know this because I talk to my students like they are human beings. I greet them with hugs and smiles every day. I take time each day to have a morning meeting, where two to three students get to share something. Maybe it’s that their dog was hit by a car and died last night. Or maybe one of them is sad because everyone is talking about making Father’s Day presents and his dad is in prison and he won’t be seeing or spending time with his dad.

What company out there is coming up with ways to add relationship to the CCSS? What will that look like? Will there be a required statement to make at the beginning of each day? “Good morning student A.” Will the kids have barcodes on their foreheads so they can be shoved through the lunch lines faster and get back to class for the next assessment?

Guess what? When I went to college, it didn’t prepare me for what I would face when I stepped into my classroom that very first day 14 years ago! Nothing could have. You see, when working with human beings, young, developing human beings, there is nothing inside a college textbook or any lecture even the greatest professor could give to prepare for that. Why? Because EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT.

I don’t buy into the notion that every kid must learn the same exact thing in the same exact order at the very same rate of speed with the very same words. Differentiate, but use a script, they say. Uh, that doesn’t sound idiotic at all. Use various methods of delivering the lesson, too. What would that be? Reading the script to the kids as a listening comprehension activity? Or having all the students read the scripted lesson as a reading comprehension lesson?

Bottom line here is I’m a good teacher. I know what each of my students need because I TALK WITH THEM, not at them. I work WITH them. I read WITH them. Every single child is unique and learns differently. So how much sense does it make to teach them in a common way? Teaching kids to live healthy lives in an unhealthy way is insane. It makes absolutely no sense. I’m very able to assess and evaluate my students without a rubric on a clipboard in my hand.

Believe it or not, I have found that it works to ASK, not tell my students to explain their thinking and show me either verbally or in writing how they know the information. It also works pretty well to give kids CHOICES. Let them show the way they solved a problem ANY WAY THEY CHOOSE. There’s more than one way to show proficiency and understanding.

Again, Who would have known that having a caring relationship with students and creating an environment where it’s okay to step away from the 15 page lesson plan and use the professional judgment you worked so long and hard for is a great way to foster a love for learning. That it would encourage students to feel safe and willing to take risks. Most importantly, it would actually raise achievement scores because teachers would be allowed to use their intuition, their gut feeling, their professionally trained brains instead of a script.

The lesson plans that are being required are not only ridiculous, cumbersome, and insulting, they are robbing children of what every competent teacher knows their students need most.

Students in poverty? Newsflash, they don’t care about doing well on a test. They can’t. Their little minds are consumed with worry that they won’t get to eat dinner. Their worry isn’t that they won’t get a good score. Their worry is they won’t get to see their parents because they both work two jobs and their older siblings, if they have any, will be caring for them.

Kids don’t need CCSS and all the testing that comes with it. Kids need teachers and all the love, care, compassion and security that comes with having him/her. My students don’t need me writing 15 pages of lesson plans each week. They need my stress free mind, my present, face to face interaction. They need me to be aware of what makes them happy or sad.

My students care about what I know because they know I care. I find time to ask about my students’ interests outside of school that could be embedded into a lesson. How many good teachers go strictly by the written plan? I don’t. Why? Because I’m constantly taking the pulse of my students and if what I have written in the plan is too easy or too difficult or not going well, I ditch it. I teach by reading my students’ cues, facial expressions, body language, etc. If I had to keep reading off a written piece of paper, I would miss all of the things that matter most. Here’s the lesson that this country needs to start implementing all across the country:

It’s common sense, not common core our teachers need the higher ups to implement.

Oh, and another thing. I’ve seen some pretty bad teachers with some beautifully written plans. Which teacher would you rather your child have? One who writes lengthy, detailed, meticulous lesson plans including each CCSS the lesson addresses, but has really no rapport or relationship with your child, or the one who spends extra time thinking of ways to help your child feel confident and excited about going to school?

There’s no time for recess, gym, art or music anymore, either. But that’s an entirely different subject I’ll address some other time. If I didn’t have to spend two hours every night documenting proof to show I know how to be a good teacher, I’d write it tonight.

And does that flawless lesson plan guarantee that the teacher will actually use it? Engage students? Assess by observation and discussion? No, because there’s a script for that.

Wouldn’t you rather your child be with a teacher who can multi task like no tomorrow, move around the room talking to and observing students working, and assessing with their brain instead of a rubric?

This isn’t to say there’s not an outline of the daily/weekly plans. There is an outline, but the teacher is forced to spend the hours writing long, drawn out lesson plans trying to prove she’s worthy of her job. This insults her deeply, by the way, because of all the voluntary training and PSD she attends trying to improve her craft. Which teacher would you want? I want the teacher who acts as if my child has a living soul, a beating heart, and who wants to build a relationship with my child built on trust and understanding. One who knows that my child isn’t like all the other children.

My child, and all the children in the class are special, unique and shouldn’t be spoken to by a robotic adult who treats him as if he’s the next part on the conveyor belt of the public education system.

My child is not a machine. My child needs a relationship, not rigor. Do away with CC standards and codes. Do you really think the teachers have time to memorize them? Do administrators have them memorized?

Will anyone even do anything with the lesson plans, other than glance down at it just to make sure all the teachers obeyed the demand?

Wouldn’t it make more sense if teachers put those hours into making fun activities that will make a lasting impact and excite the students to start exploring and creating and finding real world purposes for their new knowledge?

It’s common sense, not common core our teachers need the higher ups to implement.

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“It’s All About the INHUMANITY” – an Anonymous Teacher’s Tale

Summer School- Turning the Heat Up On Achievement
by – One Fired Up Teacher

NOTE: This was written by a teacher in a high poverty district somewhere in the US. Child and Teacher Abuse in full effect

A time to maintain achievement, right? To prevent the “summer slide” and keep students engaged and excited about learning. After all, it’s building relationships with our students that can extend far beyond the confines of classroom walls.

But what happens when the school offering summer school has no air conditioning? Does that sound beneficial? Healthy? Safe? Temperatures inside the classroom reading 98 degrees on the thermostat. How about that for the student with Epilepsy who’s seizures are triggered by heat exhaustion and dehydration. Sound safe? Healthy? Beneficial?

If that doesn’t have your attention, let’s turn up the heat a little more. Requiring teachers to supervise lunch for the students but not allowing them to eat. Not allowing them to sit down. Oh no, teachers must waste instructional time. While students eat inside the fiery furnace called the cafeteria, their teachers are commanded to stand and do flash cards or another educational task. Teachers are expected to not only suffer these conditions themselves, but to sit by and watch their students suffer, too. Every minute counts, right? Don’t waste precious time walking kids to the drinking fountain, either. The water is not only warm, it’s “against district policy” to use instructional time in too many transitions.

Yes, the fire has been lit, folks. Our kids, who deserve better, are being burned. They deserve the best and brightest education. Your highly qualified, certified teachers and their students are suffering in silence while those at the top are sitting inside their air conditioned offices on the phone with the next best corporation who’s in the running for the silver bullet. The next “new program” they will demand the teachers use in the classroom to bring up those test scores. Here’s an idea for administration and school boards.

If you want to bring up the scores and raise the achievement gap, turn down the heat on your teachers. Take some of the pressure off your teachers. If you can’t do it for them, do it for our students. Provide them with safe and healthy learning conditions. Foster an environment built on the foundation that our teachers and students deserve nothing short of the best. Stop burning the candle on both ends with the corporate world. They don’t know our students. You don’t know our students.

We, the teachers know our students. You want to know why your good, hardworking teachers are leaving the profession? They’re sick, physically and emotionally. They’re tired. They can’t stand being on the front line every single day sacrificing blood, sweat and tears, all to no avail. They, along with their students, are dying inside while fires set by you rage beneath them, threatening to extinguish all they’ve ever known and loved. Each other. Hang up the phone, step away from the computer in your chilled office and save our teachers and students from the blazing inferno you’ve put them in.

Signed,
One Fired Up Teacher

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Why are URBAN TEACHERS being TRAINED to be ROBOTS?

I am re blogging this piece from my friend and fellow activist Jennifer Berkshire – EduShyster.  This is just about the most horrifying expose on what I can only call “Professional Undevelopment” that I have ever read.

When I first read this, I was sure it was a piece of very clever satire. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This is how we make the “achievement gap” a national program – we make sure our high performing districts have freedom and choice, while we make sure our urban low performing districts treat their students like trained seals in a zoo.

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Please read and share EduShyster’s story far and wide.

“I am not Tom Brady”
Why are urban teachers being trained to be robots?

By Amy Berard
*Give him a warning,* said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did Tom Bradyas instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use. But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again. *Tell him he has a detention,* my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom *coaches* huddled around a walkie talkie. *Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!*

Meet C3PO
Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing. It c3powas supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing *immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.* In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies. I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. I referred to the CT3 training as C-3PO after the Star Wars robot, but C-3PO actually had more personality than we were allowed. The robot also spoke his mind.

No Nonsense Nurturing
If you’re not familiar with No Nonsense Nurturing or NNN, let’s just say that there is more nonsense than nurturing. The approach starts from the view that no nonsenseurban students, like my Lawrence, MA middle schoolers, benefit from a robotic style of teaching that treats, and disciplines, all students the same. This translated into the specific instruction that forbade us from speaking to our students in full sentences. Instead, we were to communicate with them using precise directions. As my students entered the room, I was supposed to say: *In seats, zero talking, page 6 questions 1-4.* But I don’t even talk to my dog like that. Constant narration of what the students are doing is also key to the NNN teaching style.  *Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.*

Robot moves
My efforts to make the narration seem less robotic—*I see Victor is on page 6. I see Natalie is on question 3*—triggered flashbacks to Miss Jean and Romper Room. All that was missing was the magic mirror. But even this was too much for the NNN squad in the corner. *Drop the ‘I see’* came through my earpiece. All this narration was incredibly distracting for the students, by the way, to the point where they started narrating me. *Mrs. Berard is passing out the exit tickets.* *Mrs. Berard is helping Christian.* *Mrs. Berard is reviewing the answer to question 4*

*Tell them you are like Tom Brady*
The students were also perplexed by my new earpiece accessory. *Um, Miss, what’s that in your ear?* they asked. I looked over to the three adults in the far bill-belichickback corner of the room for my scripted answer. *Tell them you are like Tom Brady. Tom Brady wears an earpiece to be coached remotely and so do you,* was the response. I never would have said that, and mumbled instead *But I’m not Tom Brady. No I’m Tom Brady.* The students, who could hear me, but not what I was hearing through my earpiece, were more confused than ever. At which point I explained to the students that I was being trained by the people in the corner who were telling me what to say via their walkie talkie. I’m all for transparency and simple answers to simple questions.

What kind of message does this send to students? I wondered. That their teachers are so incompetent that they need an ear piece and 3 people sharing a walkie talkie in the corner to tell them what to say?

What kind of message does this send to students? I wondered. That their teachers are so incompetent that they need an ear piece and 3 people sharing a walkie talkie in the corner to tell them what to say?

Joyless joy
I struggled to adopt the emotionless monotone that NNN required. I was told that my tone was wrong. My voice was too high, and that I came across as too happy—I smile a lot; I celebrate a lot, including every two weeks when the flowers on my cactus bloom, again. When I asked the NNN trainer to elaborate on what she meant by my tone being off, a critique she delivered just hours after meeting me for the first time, her response included a full blown, and exaggerated, impersonation of me delivered in front of my behavior intervention coach and assistant principal. When her performance was done, the NNN trainer winked at me. *But don’t lose your joy,* she said.

Mountain pose
I was told to stand in mountain pose and not to favor one leg over another. I C-3PO-3was told not to cross my legs. My body language must be in no way casual (or human). And I needed to stop conveying so much excitement at the students’ accomplishments. After one session of C3PO training, I was told that I was too happy that a student had legible writing. I shouldn’t praise basic things that should be expected. Another time I was chastised for pointing out to a child: *Woah, this is great. This is your best work so far this year!*

*Don’t turn*
I felt awful after that critique, like I had let my students down with my excessive enthusiasm. I went back and apologized to them. The student whose handwriting I’d praised said it had made him happy to be complimented. *I didn’t take what you said in a bad way.* *Just be yourself,* another student told me. *Don’t be who that want you to be. Don’t become like the rest.* You see, the students were old enough to see what the school and the trainers wanted the teachers to be and what their teachers were becoming.

They begged me not to turn.

Amy Berard grew up in Lawrence, a half a mile away from the Guilmette Middle School where she taught ELA last year. She was let go at the end of the school year after administrators determined that she was not the *right fit* for Lawrence.

Here is the link once again to the EduShyster blog post.

Poetic Justice’s Concerns About Corruption in CT

I am reblogging Jonathan Pelto’s latest post about how the will of the people has been circumvented here in CT. Please read and share this story.

CT deserves a Commissioner of Education who is also an educator. All states deserve that. What has happened in CT shouldn’t happen in a democracy.  This is a scam. These “reformers” should not be allowed to move from state to state causing disruption, distraction, and destruction. This has to stop. At the very least, they should have a background in education.

This is the least we the people should demand for our children and grandchildren.

In preparation for the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2015 constitutionally required veto session, Democratic legislative leaders announced yesterday that no votes would be taken on whether to sustain or override the nine bills vetoed by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy during this year’s legislative session.

The most noteworthy of the bills that the Democrats are unwilling to bring up for a vote is PA 15-176, which was House Bill 6977, AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.

The legislation requires that any person serving as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education have an appropriate education degree and teaching experience.

The legislation arose in response to Governor Malloy’s decision to name Stefan Pryor, a charter school founder and corporate education reform industry advocate, to be his first commissioner of education, despite the fact that Pryor had no educational experience.

Stefan Pryor’s performance as Malloy’s Education Commissioner led both Democrats and Republicans to call for legislation requiring future leaders of the state department of education to have the requisite education experience.

The General Assembly’s Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill #6977 and went on to pass the legislation by a vote of 32 – 0.

At no time did Malloy or his administration testify against the bill or publicly announce any opposition to the concept.

The bill went to pass the Connecticut State Senate by a vote of 36 – 0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives by a vote of 138-5.

In the end, only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill.

With its passage, HB6977 become Connecticut Public Act 15-176.

But despite the overwhelming level of support displayed for the bill by the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Malloy vetoed the legislation.

And now, in a disturbing and rather pathetic effort to appease Governor Malloy, the Democratic leadership in the Senate and House has announced that, after speaking with the Democratic members of the two chambers, there will be no vote to override or sustain Governor Malloy’s veto.

Instead, the bill will simply die.

To read about the bill go to: Malloy vetoes bill requiring that education commissioner have education experience, for news coverage about the decision not to even vote on Malloy’s veto see: CT Dems shameful display of cowardice on Malloy’s Education Veto (updated) and news coverage  at General Assembly Won’t Override Malloy’s Vetoes (CT Newsjunkie),   Democrats will not attempt to override Malloy vetoes (CT Mirror), No Veto Overrides Planned By Legislature (Hartford Courant)

The Democratic legislators’ lame and unsettling decision to  not even allow a vote on whether to override Malloy’s veto of AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION (PA 15-176) came as a shock to Connecticut’s two teacher unions (the CEA and AFT-CT) who claimed ownership of the bill and used its passage as some strange indicator that their endorsement of Malloy’s re-election effort was acceptable because he was now being taken to the “wood shed” for his historic abuse of teachers and the teaching profession.

But the underlying issue isn’t about Malloy vs. the teacher unions or about whether Dannel Malloy’s temper and thin skin led him to veto a bill, out of the blue, despite its nearly unanimous support.

The issue really isn’t even about whether state government should or should not require that the commissioner of education have appropriate teaching experience.

The fundamental issue at stake is the result of the decision by the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly to prevent a vote on whether to override Malloy’s veto.

The decision by the legislative branch to walk away from its duty to check and balance the executive branch reflects the growing politics of appeasement that has enveloped our political system and it is a situation that should be of concern to everyone across the political spectrum.

The foundation of the United States’ system of government is the inclusion of the system of checks and balances to guard against unwarranted authority.  It is an inherent part of both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut.

As James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 47,

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

(The Federalist No. 47: The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts January 30, 1788)

In a 2006 Washington Monthly article on the danger of executive power, Bruce Fein wrote about Madison’s concept explaining,

The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power. Centuries of experience substantiated that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Men are not angels. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition to avert abuses or tyranny. The Constitution embraced a separation of powers to keep the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in equilibrium. As Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: ‘The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.’”

“The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.”

Governor Malloy is wrong to have vetoed the bill requiring that the person responsible for running the state department of education have educational experience.

But the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly have done a far greater disservice by refusing to even vote on Malloy’s veto.  Their unwarranted decision to appease Malloy means that they have handed their constitutionally mandated legislative authority to the executive branch of government.

And that is something every Connecticut citizens should be very concerned about.

Here is the original article from the Wait What blog.

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The Walking Man is Still Walking – an Update and a Plea for Support!

I am Reblogging this from Jesse Turner’s blog!

The Walking Man is Still Walking – and could use some more support for the last days of his walk

SOS Go Fund Me shout out, I see a day coming where millions are marching..

A few pictures from some walk stops on my way to DC.
Some people are asking if my walk has a website. I am a one man PR machine with limited resources. I am using Facebook to pushed the walk. I am an activist that has for over a decade been fighting against high-stakes testing and NCLB.
In 2010 I stepped outside my local comfort fighting zone. I decided to push things nationally started walking to DC. Had no idea where it would lead me, but understood that silence and apathy was destroying our public schools. I do remember writing one of those Anthony Cody letters to President Obama, and understanding that no one in DC was listening to teachers. I started this blog right here, and a Facebook group called “Children Are more than test scores.”

I have no budget, no grants, no support staff, but I do have two feet made for walking, a voice made for talking, and a pen made for writing. I am not perfect or some kind of hero. I am a man on a quest for justice for our children, their teachers and public schools.
I believe in the “Power of One…that math concept that explains if you double a number starting with one..in 30 days you have millions. I see this struggle not in terms of 30 days, but a long term Power of One battle for the salvation of our children and our democracy.
So no website people, but a big heart, an open mind, and two strong feet made for walking. My faith in every day Americans to do the right thing inspires me. I see a time of millions marching coming. I see it coming sooner not later.
I read Man Of LaMancha when I was 10 years old, and fell in love with the thought of a knight errand on a quest to do right. I am in love with fighting the good fight.
I believe victory is coming, and even if I fall I know I am the better for it. As sure as night turns to day I see change coming.
Walking to DC,
Jesse

PS, I am 11 days from DC, could use a little help with my Go Fund Me campaign. I have been asking people to give 10 dollars for 10 miles. Every 10 dollars helps cover the cost of my Walking To DC campaign. No pressure, give if you can, and know just reading my blog inspires me to walk.
http://www.gofundme.com/JesseWalkingToDC

If you are wondering what song this walking man was listening to it’s Eric Clapton’s Change The World.
https://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=AirSAQZv63E7A5oZfwtpjsKbvZx4?fr=yfp-t-901-s&toggle=1&fp=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&p=youtube%20change%20the%20world%20eric%20clapton