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Walter Hays Elementary School, Palo Alto

Yesterday I gave two back-to-back presentations at Walter Hays Elementary School in Palo Alto. I had been invited there by one very determined little lady, Jet Mante, pictured here (right) with me and her friend Hannah (left). CBS were there to record the event.

Jet had been at my presentation in Menlo Park a few weeks ago, and decided that she wanted to help me in my Pacific bid. So she sent me a proposal.

She had hit on the brilliant idea of asking her friends to pledge the money that they would have spent on goodie bags (usually plastic bags containing plastic toys and novelty items, given out at the end of parties – and probably largely ending up in landfill). Thus they would be reducing their use of plastics – helping the environment – and also helping me. She asked if I would speak at her school if they raised enough money. So a target was set.

Progress at first was slow, and I was caught in a quandary about what to do. I thought it was important not to lower the target – real life isn’t like that – but I also know from bitter experience how difficult it can be to meet fundraising targets.

I was trying to figure out a way to make it work, e.g. by suggesting that we could lower the target if she managed to arrange some media coverage, but in the meantime Jet had stepped up her campaign, determined to deliver on her promise. She is made of stern stuff. Here is the update I got from her a few weeks later:

“Last week I was at fundraising tables before and after school all week to raise money for your trip. There were usually two students at the tables, sometimes more. We also had two posters at the tables: one was an informational poster, it contained pictures of you, and information my friend Hannah and I found on your website. The other was a chart showing how we were doing against the goal you had set us. To attract attention we also used the P.A. system, talked to students, and talked to the principal. In the end we raised $1,121.88.”

This total eventually rose yet further, to over $1,200.

I gave the presentation at the school yesterday, to 450 children in two sittings. Last week I spoke to 900 schoolchildren at Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City.

There is something faintly terrifying in being regarded as a role model for the next generations, but I try to live up to it as best I can. Parents and teachers come up to me afterwards and tell me how “inspiring” my presentation was, although what I might be inspiring anyone to do, I dread to think….

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