The Giving Tour, Day 5: Scottsdale, AZ

By Alex Cohen

Day 5, I cannot believe this trip is almost coming to an end; it seems like yesterday we started in Chicago nervous about what was ahead of us.

This morning we started out feeling a little more rested than usual since we spent the night in a real bed at the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, AZ. The hotel was charming, except that it reminded me of “The Shining” and I kept expecting to see the twins at the end of the hallway!

Jeanne and I went to a small diner right next to the hotel and had the best bacon eggs and biscuits and – again – the best service ever.  The two waitresses there were older and we overheard one of them say she had been there 19 years. It was the only job she ever had.  Working with smiles on their faces, we could see they both took great pride in their service, and they were very grateful when we gave them each a tip that was larger than the bill itself.

Back on the bus and off to BASIS Charter School in Scottsdale, Arizona.  There, we were greeted by Dr. Peter Bezanson, CEO of BASIS Charter Schools; Natalie Verdiner, Director of Development; and Steven Villafuerte, Head of the school.  We toured the playground first, to see the younger ones running, playing, sliding, building and some were actually learning martial arts.  The martial arts instructor, I was told, also teaches Tai Chi to the children.

We then went into a classroom to watch a presentation by 1st graders, they read so well that I thought I was in a 3rd grade class, very impressive.  From there we went into a science class where the kids were taking an astronomy test online, we tried to follow along and answer the questions and I got one answer correctly (out of five) …it’s been a while.  The last class we joined was an arts class; after a quick dance lesson, the students acted out their favorite super heroes. What a blast of energy that was! These kids were full of energy and confidence, even with a group of strangers in the room.

I was very impressed with the statistics of this school; I guess that is why they have a waitlist of over 1,000 kids… This should not be the case, all American children should have the right to a great education. Thank God for charter schools. They may not be able to help all children but they change the lives of so many.  These examples of excellence should be copied and not fought against – open your eyes, these children are our future leaders.

After a quick photo with the arts class, we said our goodbyes and hopped back on the bus and headed to the airport to catch a flight to Las Vegas, where our last stop will be tomorrow.  Once on the plane we were able to really reflect about the last five days, what touched us the most and what surprised us the most.  We laughed about stories of our living arrangements on the bus and how surprised we were that we lived together so well.

Once we arrived in Vegas and checked into the hotel it was time for a real shower and a few hours to relax before dinner, and take in the sights for the first time.  We ate dinner together as a team, telling funny stories about the trip and sharing some fun memories and “bloopers.”  Tomorrow is our last site visit and we are all a little sad that it is coming to an end.  One thing is for certain, this trip will forever remain in our hearts and I don’t think any of us will ever be the same.