At Crump Elementary School in southeast Memphis, renowned neurosurgeon, author and rising political factor Dr. Ben Carson rapidly is becoming a lifeline.
Carson was in Memphis Wednesday as part of the "Think Big, Dream L.I.G.H.T." Enlightenment Seminar held on the campus of the University of Memphis. He's never stepped foot inside of Crump, but now he has shaken hands with some of the school's Eagles.
That pressing of the flesh came at the Holiday Inn-University after a private luncheon and before a meet-and-greet mixer with U of M students prior to the public seminar at the Michael Rose Theater. The look on his face and on the faces of the students spoke to the instant connection.
Crump is among several schools focused upon by the Inner L.I.G.H.T. Outreach Organization, whose mission involves "life, intelligence, generosity, humility and talents," according to Executive Director David Rose.
A group of Crump students have been reading Carson's bestseller, "Gifted Hands." In doing so, they have been getting acquainted with his personal story, which includes "growing up in a single parent home with dire poverty, poor grades, a horrible temper, and low self-esteem," according to a post on his website.
On Wednesday, Carson the author met his readers, who came with books in hand. They seemed to want him to see the pages bent back and twisted, with quotes marked – proof that they were indeed deep into the experience of learning how he overcame the odds.
One student, clearly excited, talked about how he had started to do some of the things Carson had detailed in his book; and with his own measure of success. It was hard, the young man said, vowing to stick with it.
At points, Carson seemed to light up like a Christmas tree, particularly when the students swarmed around him soon after he entered the room.
Rose and Carson have mirrowing desires to help students. Through the Carson Scholars Fund, Carson has set up 85 Carson Reading Rooms in 12 states since 2000. The primary purpose is to "provide funding and support to local schools so that they can create a nurturing environment for children to feel safe and secure as they develop their reading skills."
Inner L.I.G.H.T., said Rose, would like to see Carson Reading Rooms in Memphis, including at the group's adopted school, Cummings, which he said has a student body that consists of students "who hail from a single parent home, low-income environment and an insufficient educational background."
"Establishing a reading room program would be an imperative step in redirecting student involvement and participation in academic excellence," he wrote to The New Tri-State Defender.
(For more information about Inner L.I.G.H.T., visit www.InnerLIGHTpf.org.)