Common Reader focuses on injustice, educational access
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Sitting down to a good read can be a relaxing, pleasant way to spend some time. It can also inspire one to action. I feel fortunate that part of my work at Colorado Mountain College is to provide people with the opportunity to read good books with powerful messages that can motivate them to make a difference.
The theme of this year’s Common Reader program is challenging injustice and improving access to education. This year’s book – “A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School” by Carlotta Walls LaNier – shows how sometimes this can only occur through resilience and courage. The book chronicles LaNier’s personal journey to obtain a high school education in a world of systemic prejudice and hate. LaNier was the youngest, at 14, of the “Little Rock Nine” students to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
After Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus closed Little Rock’s high schools to avoid further integration, Carlotta Walls sat out her junior year and took correspondence courses. She was one of two members of the original nine to return to Central in 1959. On May 20, 1960, she became the first African-American girl to participate in a graduation ceremony at the school. Her brave journey will challenge you to reflect on the true meaning of equal access to education. With great courage and determination, the Little Rock Nine changed the face of American education forever.
At seven Colorado Mountain College locations, including Spring Valley, LaNier will talk about her historic role. People who attend an author’s talk in October will have the opportunity to help provide further access to education through donations. Half of the funds raised at the author talks will go to the Little Rock Nine Foundation and half to the CMC Foundation’s No Barriers scholarship. Both of these funds are dedicated to providing financial assistance to help students achieve their educational goals.
To encourage people to read the book, copies have been donated to Literacy Outreach and the St. Stephen’s eighth-grade class. The book is also available for checkout at all of the Garfield County Public Libraries and the Pitkin County Library in Aspen. Individuals interested in purchasing the book locally can do so at the Book Train in Glenwood Springs and Explore Booksellers in Aspen. Community members also are invited to enter the Challenging Injustice art and creative writing contest, with cash prizes awarded.
As we learn in school, “If you don’t learn about history, you’re bound to repeat it.” That’s part of why we chose this book; it allows people to reflect on the importance of education. To get an education, you sometimes have to take brave steps, and I’d say we have students at Colorado Mountain College who do that every day. Join us as we celebrate the courage and determination of one historic student and inspire the next generation of learners.
Jane Szucs is an instructional chair at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Spring Valley. Call 945-8691 or visit coloradomtn.edu/commonreader for details about LaNier’s visits, the Common Reader program, the art and creative writing contest and more. Learn about LaNier at http://www.amightylongway.com.
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