Saturday, April 4, 2009

Remembering Daren

In my work I am often inspired by friends, news, students, events, emails, blog comments, teachers, Facebook updates, family, tweats, etc. Today, in the midst of news about the random gun shooting in Binghamton, NY , it was an email about Daren that inspired me. I wanted to ensure that schools were picturing in their minds students who, like Daren, have arbitrarily fallen victim to a disability. Below is the email I received last week from a colleague who requested that we (the newly appointed Technology Innovation Managers) remember Daren in our work.

It’s Friday night and I am sitting up with my 25-year-old nephew Daren who is navigating his Apple –iBook with a head mouse and voice commands as he looks across his bed to a 47” TV/Monitor. His careful screen navigation amazes me. A gentile tilt of his head, a strategic voice command, and he travels the world from his bed. Technology!


My nephew is a victim of random gun violence in Philadelphia. He was shot four times- twice in the neck and twice in the chest. It was the shots in the neck that impacted his spinal cord and has currently left him a quadriplegic. Since the shooting, he has taught himself to breathe on his own, and has learned a sophisticated technology system that combines the use of a gravity mouse attached to a head set and a range of voice commands. I visit him one weekend a month to give my brother and sister-in-law a break from Daren’s care giving….I left work today to drive down to Phila to spend with weekend with Daren.


And so, as I sit in amazement at the power of technology, I am thinking about all of you. I realize how challenging the near future may seem. You are all in a transition-in new roles, working in new conditions… and yet, when I think about Daren and the power of technology, I feel very fortunate to work with a group of educators who have the insights and passions to bring technology to the lives of children and teachers. I am honored to work with you as you envision the many possibilities for our schools.


I understand the shift in structure proves challenging and I am trying to find a way to resolve these confusions as best I can… For me, however, I can see past these initial challenges to see the power in the work you all will be doing in our schools…and I am both grateful and excited about the opportunity to work with all of you. I know in my heart that you will soon be on your way to craft wonderful learning experiences for our students and their teachers. I believe that these grants will make a difference in their lives. And as I watch my nephew Daren and his technology skills tonight, I am thinking of all of you.


My heart smiles knowing that you each bring your passions to this work. Your care is evident in our meetings. My heart smiles knowing that each of you bring your insights and understandings to the tasks in front of your. And my heart smiles, as I know there are thousands of kids in our schools that will benefit from your hard work.


I know it may seem strange, even premature, but I want to thank you. Thank you for taking this time to make a difference in the lives of children... thank you for helping to schools improve. Thank you for your patience and understanding… and thank you for working to navigate these uncharted waters.

Tonight as my heart goes out to innocent victims in Binghamton, NY who to me remain nameless, Daren is not. Today, the author of the above email and I collaborated with others (thanks Leslie!) to craft a unique option for schools that would expand the possibilities for students with disabilities. As I did, the work of innovative educators in New York City and beyond seemed all that more meaningful. Personally, I hope this work will live up to the expectation Daren’s uncle laid out when he wrote, “I know in my heart that you will soon be on your way to craft wonderful learning experiences for our students and their teachers.”

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