By Rachel Farrier, Katie Garber, Madi Huffmann, Shayla Ides, Collen Mahoney, William Mitchell, Keishanique Moton-Tyler, Andrew Shearer, Kelsey Vandenberg, and Andrew VanNice

It is fast becoming a tradition to bring the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy’s incoming class to Des Moines, Iowa to explore the city and learn the history of the Belin-Blank Center founders.  The field trip is also an opportunity to continue building a sense of community among the students.  The following are a few student reflections on the experience:

We began our day at the Des Moines Botanical Garden.  The deep roots of the Belin-Blank Center and the Bucksbaum Academy benefactors were evident.  The wide variety of plants from around the world also brought into perspective what the academy is all about. Much like these plants, we all come from different backgrounds.  But with the generosity of these paragons of kindness, we will blossom together.

Central Campus and Central Academy are the Des Moines Metro’s center for talented and gifted students.  The director of Central Academy, Dr. Jessica Gogerty, and Diana Langford, a member of the Des Moines Public School Board and former early entrance student, hosted us for lunch.  As Dr. Gogerty stated, Central Academy and Central Campus are committed to providing opportunities for central Iowa students who need an environment designed to challenge their academic abilities.  Ms. Langford shared her journey from an early entrance student to becoming the youngest person ever elected to the Des Moines School Board. Our experience with Central Academy and Des Moines public schools showed us that determination and a willingness to ask for help, whether at the high school or college level, are paramount to student success.

At the Des Moines Social Club, we started in the kitchen.  Our wonderful chef, Cassandra, had two recipes set out for us to prepare: Italian Cream Puffs and Chipotle Salted Chocolate Truffles.  We broke into two groups, each team preparing one dessert as a way to promote team-building and communication skills.  After the baking, we met with an alum of both the Belin-Blank’s Iowa Talent Project and the University of Iowa, Marissa Hurst.  Marissa graduated with a degree in Elementary Education in 2017 and just started her first year as a fifth-grade teacher at Norwalk Elementary. Marissa shared how she struggled with a lack of motivation during her sophomore year of college, and ultimately overcame it to graduate from the University of Iowa’s College of Education. Marissa showed what determination can do as she masterfully spun on aerial silks and hoops after taking only a year of lessons.  We concluded our visit to the Des Moines Social Club with a tour of the facility and a photograph in front of a wall of gorgeous graffiti.

We stopped for dinner at the terrific locally sourced restaurant, HoQ.  The atmosphere was formal, yet comfortable and intimate, tucked in the front corner of the restaurant by the large picture windows. Before the first course was even served, everyone was deep in conversation.  This continued throughout our course of soup or salad, but when the main courses of meat loaf, Black bean burger, or shrimp soup arrived the discussion suddenly stopped.  We then finished chatting about our families and the government over an interesting and colorful cucumber cake.

The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a collection of sculptures showcasing a variety of different art styles. We weren’t sure what to expect upon arrival, but found it interesting to look at the sculptures and try to interpret the assorted pieces. This experience also gave us an opportunity to expand our horizons and creative mindsets, and learn how our classmates think.  The generosity of the Pappajohn family, like the Belins and Blanks, pushes all of us to further our boundaries of creativity, intelligence, and culture, and remember that generosity brings opportunity, and opportunity brings us together.


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