With encouragement from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and the David and Molly Boren Mentoring Program, Beaver Dusters were able to bring Alton Carter to speak to the students in grades one through 12. All the mentors, teachers and students found his story to be tough but inspirational. When someone thinks his or her life is hard, he or she needs only to stop and remember how Alton grew up. He was the first one in his family to graduate from high school and later from Oklahoma State University. He never knew his father, and his mother and several members of his family were drug addicts. While very young, he knew he did not want to be like most of his family. At age nine, the Department of Human Services took him and his siblings away from their mother, and Alton later was sent to a boys' ranch near Perry. At the boys' ranch, Alton was guaranteed food if he didn't get cross-ways with the head master. Tough on all of the boys, the head master treated them like slaves more than young boys who could really use someone they respected.
|Zavier and Alton Carter|
He began by going to Mrs. Megan Stewart's fourth grade class. As a class project, Mrs. Stewart each day had been reading The Boy Who Carried Bricks, Alton's story. Mrs. Stewart told the class to close their eyes because she had a surprise for them. Alton went to the front of the room, and the class was told to open their eyes. In unison, they yelled out, "ALTON CARTER!" They were thrilled they actually met a real, live author. He spent 30 minutes with the class, and then grades four through 12 went to the auditorium where he spoke for over an hour. One high school teacher later commented that usually high school kids get antsy after a short while and even try to sneak a peek at their cell phones. That day all kids, grades four through 12, were spellbound for over an hour. Then he visited the lunch room but never ate. Instead Alton spent time talking to kids one-on-one.
|Alton's speaking to Beaver first through third graders.|
Alton in 2017
Alton resides in Stillwater where he lived as a young boy before being sent to the boys' ranch. He is the youth minister for Stillwater's United Methodist Church. Married, he has two sons. One son is in college at Oklahoma State, and the other is in high school.
To learn more about Alton's book, see the link below. The gripping story makes readers continue--often in one sitting. Aging Out, his second book, is a continuation of his life after leaving the boys' ranch and then being in a foster home. In Oklahoma, foster youths are automatically put out of foster homes at age 18, and many end up homeless because no one cares. Emotional and social support ends abruptly.
Alton Carter's website http://www.altoncarter.net/
The loyal Beaver Dusters Mentors had donated for Alton Carter's fee, but Superintendent Scott Kinsey found money to pay for the day-long event that benefited students, faculty, and mentors. Everyone who heard Alton's comments throughout the day benefited in understanding the situations from which some youths come to school and how teachers, mentors, peers, and others can guide and support those youths even when they act out or don't believe in themselves. For example, two teachers--one female and one male--made a significant difference in Alton's life by not giving up on him no matter what.
Within the mentoring network, Alton has spoken at Leedey Public Schools, Fairview's Mission Mentors' Appreciation Banquet, and Oklahoma Mentor Day 2017. Often when he speaks, he interacts one-on-one with students as much as possible.
Reading the book to or with elementary students over time is a best practice. Older students should read both books. Even if students are not from hard places, they need to be open and supportive to those who are. No matter from which hard place one comes, he or she can succeed. Someone--a teacher, mentor, coach, peer, or foster parent--needs to add some encouragement and, according to Alton, "plant the seeds of hope."
Thanks to Linda Downing, Beaver Dusters Mentoring Program, for her leadership, huge heart, and sharing this story.