The Power of the Story: A Lakeshore Lesson

 

The Madrid airport was bustling with people quickly running to catch their flights. I glanced at my watch again - 2 more hours *sigh*. My cohort classmate looked at me, "So, what's your story?" I looked confused, "My what?" "You know, your story?"

 

Ever since that exchange, I began to realize how important people's stories were and what we were missing out on when we don't inquire about them.

 

This past week has been themed with stories. On Tuesday, I sat down with the CEO of Story Impact, Micheal Kass, whose main mission is to help people and organizations discover and harness the power of their story to create change. I went to him to pick his brain to figure out how to better assist my low-income students in telling their story to win scholarships and awards, but came away primed for not only storytelling but story receiving as well.

 

I then find myself in the honored company of the President of Lakeshore Learning Stores, Kevin Carnes and the CEO, Bo Kaplan. Being an elementary educator, Lakeshore has been like a second home (especially during these summer months) but being on the other side of the operations, primed with the power of story, I was exposed to a new revelation.

Kevin Carnes, President - ME - Bo Kaplan, CEO of Lakeshore Learning Stores Kevin Carnes, President - ME - Bo Kaplan, CEO of Lakeshore Learning Stores

As a single mother, Bo Kaplan's grandmother started the tiny toy store in 1954 in Oakland because she understood the importance of play and how children learn during play. This essential idea, along with supporting teachers with innovative materials for their classroom, has morphed into a thriving national company and I found myself on the edge of my seat as their inspiring stories flowed out from their past and present experiences.

 

They shared the time Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. After a phone call, they quietly filled up two 16-wheeler trucks with toys and learning supplies and sent them on their way to the Houston Astrodome in an attempt to add some brightness to the disrupted lives of the displaced children there.

 

No fanfare, no pomps and circumstance, no media. Just toys and love.

 

Engaging the displaced children in activities, volunteers begin providing much-needed structure to the kids’ day. Engaging the displaced children in activities, volunteers begin providing much-needed structure to the kids’ day.

 

Sue Gaon, their Vice President, also shared about when a teacher, who had a desire to improve the quality and accountability of special education with an innovative curriculum, was turned away from every publisher she approached. Once the Lakeshore leadership saw her passion and understood her position, they assisted in publishing her work and connected her with a supportive school district that helped it flourish, causing it to change the expectations for the special needs population in that area where they administered her progressive work.

 

They're not doing it so they can post a Facebook announcement. They are not doing it to get on the news.

 

They did it because it needed to be done and it was the right thing to do.

 

Many times stories aren't shared because it may be construed as bragging or seeking shallow appreciation but the opposite of that is that no one knows the goodness that is occurring all around us.

 

The stories Kevin,  Bo and Sue shared automatically struck a chord with me personally. My twin sister and grandparents were stuck in horrific aftermath of Katrina. I started my elementary years in special education due to my speech impediment and letting kids play - and learn through that play- is why I participate in Global School Play Day, an event I support that believes in the positive benefits of open play for children.

 

Likewise, consumers are becoming more aware of where their dollars are going. People are patronizing companies whose values are aligned with theirs and one powerful way to share one's values is through authentic storytelling.

 

More than just statistics, stories pierce through the numbers and connect you straight to the heart of the matter.

 

When we're in a time where negative stories command our airways without offering any solution, I'm glad stories such as these from Lakeshore exist because they continue to revive my hope in humanity. It's these stories people need to hear because it's these stories that bring hope.

 

And we all need hope.

 

It's not about boasting or egotism; it's about transparency and connection.

 

So I ask you, "What's your story?"

 

 

 

Pictures from my visit of the Lakeshore Learning Headquarters in Carson, California!

IMG_1123 This is where all the supplies get checked, double checked, and sent out to you!

IMG_1120 I'm not going to lie. I really wanted to ride on this 'box mover' contraption!

IMG_1114 No matter where I am, people ALWAYS love getting thank you letters from Donorschoose.org students!

Ran into my UCLA classmate, Eric Chyo, who I haven't seen in 16 years! Go Bruins! Ran into my UCLA classmate, Eric Chyo, who I haven't seen in 16 years! Go Bruins!

IMG_1112 Employees get surprises throughout the summer! That's me in the picture by the way (My Lakeshore Personality).

IMG_1111 Summer fun!

IMG_1108 Members of their catalogue design and photography team!

Their design and product development team is at the top of the class! Their design and product development team is at the top of the class!

IMG_1106 The lovely Barbara who helped make this visit happen!