A School Leader's Journey

By Philip P. Kelly

E
very month, high school students report the latest activities from their schools at our board meeting. Typically, most of the reports involve sports victories and defeats, dance themes, canned food drives, etc. But student reports from one school -- Mount Cove High School, the alternative high school for the Boise, Idaho, School District -- are not so typical.

At Mount Cove, students talk about their monthly kiva, where they, the faculty, and community members share their excess clothing or housewares with each other. They report about the school’s efforts to have all students and faculty read a certain number of books. In the fall of 2006, Mount Cove’s monthly report unknowingly changed my life, as a trustee and as a human being.

Around Thanksgiving, a student informed the board that the Mount Cove students had watched a film titled Invisible Children: Rough Cut. The student described how her classmates were moved by the story of the child soldiers in northern Uganda, and she encouraged the school board members to view it. After the board meeting, I took it home to watch -- then promptly forgot about it for a few weeks.

One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I watched the movie and was amazed to learn about the plight of children in a war that had been raging for two decades. Especially moving was the story about a young boy, Jacob, who was abducted and forced to be a child soldier by the rebel army. The 12-year-old, who had watched his brother murdered and had eventually escaped from the rebels, told the filmmakers that he would rather be dead than endure the hellish existence in which he found himself. As he told his story, Jacob began to cry -- no, to wail -- no longer able to suppress his anguish.

I, like the Mount Cove students, knew I had to do something. Thus began my journey involving students, teachers, and community members both in Boise, Idaho, and Gulu, Uganda.

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