Jordan Feaster, center, writes plans for a park trip while Angie Perez Montoya, left, and Charles Brucker, right, look on.

Story reprinted courtesy of the Salisbury Post


By Rebecca Rider

SPENCER — Few 12-year-olds have the opportunity to turn an ambitious idea into reality. But then, few 12-year-olds are Jordan Feaster.

For the North Rowan Middle School student, it started out as an essay prompt. Students in her seventh-grade academically and intellectually gifted class were asked to submit entries for a Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest on national parks. The goal was for students to write about a national park as if they were physically there, experiencing it first-hand.

On a whim, Jordan let her imagination run wild in the final paragraph.

“I decided to put a twist on it,” she said.

In the last few sentences, she revealed that the essay’s narrator was someone who founded and ran an organization that helps students visit national parks. Jordan said she’d hoped her essay would earn third place at North Middle, at least. She never expected to see her idea blossom into being.

But during a community school visit, [Rowan-Salisbury] Superintendent Lynn Moody fell in love with Jordan’s essay and started talking with Jordan, AIG teacher Angelia Fleming and district administrators.

“We wanted to see if we could make it happen,” Fleming said.

Jordan said the response left her shell-shocked. When she wrote her essay, she didn’t think the idea of an organization helping students experience national parks was anything extraordinary.

“To me, it seemed so ordinary,” she said. “But to other people, it was just amazing.”

In just a few short weeks, it won’t just be a theory on paper — it will be real. Jordan’s class, along with a fifth-grade AIG class from North Rowan Elementary — will make a trip to Pilot Mountain State Park. It’s a little short of the original vision, but Jordan and Fleming say they’ll work their way up.

“So this is kind of our stepping stone, I guess,” Fleming said.

Next year, the goal is for students to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the closest national park to Rowan County.

And so far, everything has been handled by the students. Jordan’s class took the initial prompt and ran with it — writing up invitations for people to join them on the hike, coming up with activities to complete during the trip, creating promotional videos, launching an informational website and designing T-shirts to sell.

“We want the community to know what we’re doing,” Jordan said.

It’s a project that’s a little bit outside Fleming’s comfort zone, but one she said is well worth it.

“What choice is there?” Fleming wondered. “She had this idea, and if you let it lay stagnant, it’s like you’re cheating or robbing her of her education.”

Jordan, too, has been made a bit nervous by the way the idea has taken on a life of its own. But she’s warming up to it. Nature is something that’s important to her, she said. A graduate of Hanford Dole Elementary, she has fond memories of frequent visits to Dan Nicholas Park and classes in the school’s outdoor learning space.

“You feel free, and I feel like you can just let go outside,” she said.

It’s a feeling she wants to impart to both her fellow students and those who are younger than herself.

“I want them to be able to understand it and feel the same way,” she said.

Appreciation for nature is something she hopes society, as a whole, will cultivate. Most people don’t value what they have in natural landscapes until it’s gone, she said. Besides, she said, it’s the fun, hands-on lessons she remembers from class — not the ones that rely solely on technology. And that’s true in everyday life, as well. It’s a revelation she hopes to pass on.

“I feel like we as kids need to interact with nature, because without it, where would we be?” she said.

Rowan Partners for Education is backing the field trip and covering transportation costs. Fleming’s class also received a $100 contribution from Achieve3000 after Jordan incorporated ideas she had read in several Achieve3000 articles about altruism and helping others. However, the class still needs funding to cover initial T-shirt costs and to cover the cost of next year’s trips.

But as a whole, Fleming said the project has been invaluable to her class.

“It’s really important that the kids have a voice,” she said. “They have the opportunity to make a difference.”

Anyone interested in contributing to Jordan’s project should contact North Rowan Middle School Principal Carl Snider at 704-639-3018.