One of the most fortunate things to have happened to me in my 14 years as a classroom teacher was when Joplin voters approved a bond issue to build two middle schools and refurbish the third one.
I certainly didn't think that at the time. While I knew the modern facilities at East and South middle schools were far better than what the students had been used to, I loved the time I spent in the old South Middle School building and did not want to leave it.
Fortunately, the people came through, the district was realigned and because of that realignment, Laela Zaidi, who had been attending Memorial was moved to the new East Middle School and to my communication arts class.
She did not need any instruction from me on how to write clearly and get her points across. Reading her work was always a joy and I became accustomed to thought- provoking papers from Laela throughout that inaugural year at East.
The work that Laela has done in the community since the tornado has been remarkable, and in the accompanying video, an interview with Al Jazeera's The Stream, and her posts on Reddit her thoughtful depiction of the interfaith community of Joplin and how it has pulled together since a fire Monday morning destroyed the Joplin Islamic Community Mosque is the kind of leadership I wish we could see from the elected officials in Missouri and the nation. Laela has helped turn another negative for the community, one even worse since this one appears most likely to be manmade, into a chance for Joplin and the nation to shine.
A Daily Kos article, titled Something Amazing is Happening in Joplin, Missouri, indicates that in the space of less than 24 hours, $160,000 of the $250,000 needed to rebuild the mosque has been raised, a great deal of that because of the leadership and positive attitude of someone who is still two years away from her high school graduation.