Students at Shaw Avenue Elementary School kicked off their Pick a Reading Partner program with a visit from “Gas Money” author and inspirational speaker Troy Lewis on March 4. The special visit also coincided with Black History Month as Lewis shared his personal story of growing up in a small town in Virginia in the 1960s, during the time of segregation.
Shaw Avenue students in grades 3-6 gathered in the auditorium to hear Mr. Lewis’ life story, including economic struggles, public education and societal norms of the time. Through a slideshow presentation which featured old photographs, the students received a glimpse into Mr. Lewis’ past. He spoke about his grandparents who had a limited education and how he never attended kindergarten due to limited funding for black schools. The students also learned about Mr. Lewis’ first experience being in an integrated classroom and how some public places, like restrooms, were segregated when he was a child.
Mr. Lewis’ book, “Gas Money,” features true stories of those who have impacted his life. Students learned about some of these individuals during his presentation.
“I want everyone who reads my book to think about similar people who have impacted their lives, be it good or bad, and what they learned from all of those experiences,” Mr. Lewis told students.
Many were surprised to learn that one of Lewis’ family members were friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. King’s wife. Students asked questions about his book and more about his life. Throughout the school day, Mr. Lewis also visited kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms to read his favorite book to students.