Hey, Brad Paisley: Welcome to the Future!

Dear Brad,

You don’t know me, and until last week, I didn’t know much about you either, but now as I write, I’m humming “Welcome to the Future.” I work at Field Club Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska. You know, the school that’s been inviting–okay, maybe bugging you–to come visit us? Three news stations came out recently to report our invitation, but they left out some pretty amazing facts.

I first stepped into Field Club Elementary when I applied for a job there in August. On seeing the beautiful school tucked into a corner of an affluent, historic neighborhood near the city’s first private golf club (for which it’s named), I imagined the students would be privileged children who already take college for granted. A lot of Omaha residents might have the same idea.

They’d be wrong.

Those kids go to private schools. Our families at Field Club are mostly hard-working, blue collar, many of them recent immigrants.  Around 40% of our students are officially classified as Second Language Learners, and over 89% qualify for the federal lunch program.  Without support, few such kids dream that college is possible.

But at Field Club, Principal Barbara Wild and her staff are dedicated to making the college dream come true.  At my job interview, Mrs. Wild told me about the No Excuses University Program, the only one of its kind in Nebraska.  About six years ago, school counselor Carrie Tubbs encountered the program in Amarillo, Texas and saw fantastic results. Carrie came back to Omaha eager to spread the word to Field Club.

The Nebraska Department of Education’s tests show great results. Since 2009, Reading scores at Field Club have gone from 45 to 74; Math from 32 to 63; and Science from 31 to 57. But the standardized tests tell only half the story.

At Field Club, kids learn it’s never too soon to set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. They learn that good character and self-discipline are important, too. They’re paired with “goal buddies” from the community, cheer each other on for successes, and hear every day that college is attainable. The school motto is “No Excuses!”

The teachers at Field Club are amazing. One of them heard you were coming to Nebraska on your college tour, and came up with the idea to invite you. Another one (the third-grade teacher I assist, and arguably your biggest fan) turned it into a school-wide project and put a video together. To be honest, I was pretty skeptical. It sounded like real a long shot.

But at Field Club, I’ve learned a lot about defying the odds. I’ve learned that elementary teachers work longer and harder than I’d ever imagined. I’ve learned that the seeds of hope can be planted early and nurtured by caring adults. I’ve also learned that not all country music is about dawgs and trucks.

Our kids are the future, Brad Paisley. If you can, take a few minutes out of your busy college tour and visit us.   I promise you an enthusiastic audience and all the carton milk and graham crackers you can eat.

Your Newest Fan,

Eve Hermanson Donlan

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