The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy Travels to Des Moines

Already three weeks into the fall semester, the first class of the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy took a field trip to Des Moines, Iowa. The trip was an opportunity to continue building a sense of community among the students, while introducing them to the exciting urban renewal underway. 

The following are a few of their reflections:

Our first stop on the trip was the Des Moines Botanical Garden. We were fortunate enough to get a tour of their new outdoor space which housed lots of beautiful wildlife. We also met Laurie Belin, the daughter of philanthropists Connie and David Belin, after whom the Belin-Blank Honors Center is named. It was nice learning about her parents and the other philanthropists who funded our program in order to better understand their goals and motives. The meeting was very laid-back as we reminisced on the history of the center and the academy, especially when Susan Assouline fought to hold back tears when showing her appreciation for all that the Belins have done throughout the years. We then had lunch at The Trellis Café, a restaurant associated with the Des Moines Botanical Garden, which had delicious food and provided a good opportunity for all of us to mingle.

Our second stop in Des Moines was Raygun, self-described as “The Greatest Store in the Universe.” Raygun was founded by Mike Draper in 2005 when he experienced what most people would consider a failure: rejection from graduate school. Without a professional plan, he started selling t-shirts on his college campus as a way to pay his bills; however, he soon developed a passion for entertaining people through the messages on his t-shirts. His passion, coupled with hard work and dedication, led him to grow his business from a box on the street corner, to a store so successful that Hillary Clinton deigned to visit it. In addition to his inspiring story, Mike willingly shared his biggest piece of advice: success is 90% contingent on dependability, and 10% contingent on talent. Mike’s story was immensely inspiring, and his advice invaluable, making our visit to his store an educational, encouraging experience.

 The Des Moines Social Club is a place for common people to showcase their ideas and art. The Social Club is a community-intensive enterprise in which local artists, who have not become popular enough to be showcased in larger establishments, showcase their art in a low risk environment. The Des Moines Social Club is located in a retired fire house which shows their commitment to urban revitalization and also provides an intriguing atmosphere. We went there to immerse ourselves in the local culture by observing the artistic appeals and perspectives put forth by a variety of local artists. We exposed ourselves to new ideas and created new and wonderful things out of commonplace baking ingredients. In taking part in the activity we learned more about our selves and our abilities.

We stopped at HoQ for dinner. HoQ was a very high class restaurant that served us food using produce from local farms. The owner Suman, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was devoted to the quality of the food and service at his highly acclaimed eatery. He went out of his way to make sure as many ingredients as possible were sourced within 70 miles from his restaurant. He was passionate about his restaurant and the people who ate there. The three-course meal was also very delicious, and the service was phenomenal. All and all, HoQ was a great restaurant and allowed the ‘Baum Squad to regroup and recover after a fun but busy day.

Our last stop of the day was to the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. It features 22 of the sculptures in John and Mary Pappajohn’s personal sculpture collection. They donated them all to the Des Moines Art Center, and they are displayed in a beautiful square in downtown Des Moines. We got to wander around, look at the sculptures, and pick which one fit our character the best. The ability to relax and take in the scenery and the art brought some calming closure to the day. Before we left, we got a group photo under a gorgeous sculpture, and then headed home.

To say the least, it was a beautiful day.

 In her remarks to the students, Laurie Belin passed along a bit of her father’s wisdom: “One of my dad’s favorite expressions, Laurie shared, was adapted from ancient Jewish scholarly work: ‘Knowledge is important because it leads to wisdom, and wisdom is important because it leads to deed.’ What he meant was, acquiring knowledge alone isn’t enough. You have to put what you’ve learned into practice and do something good for the world.” In Des Moines, the students certainly uncovered countless models of people doing just that.

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