Yesterday, I sat down to look at my calendar. As a new nonprofit, we at REEL have been planning for Giving Tuesday for over a month. But for the first time, I noticed that Giving Tuesday falls on November 29th this year. And, while that may not mean anything to anyone else, it’s steeped in meaning for me.
You see, in some ways, I think of November 29, 2018, as the first time that we at REEL truly went “public” with our mission to support twice-exceptional students. REEL actually started with a small group of parents at a local elementary school looking for ways for all students, including those who were curiously quirky and sometimes even a bit bored, to build resilience and be engaged more actively in their learning. We’d talked to leaders in our district about its defunct gifted and talented program, a dead end. But as a few of us realized our children were both bright AND diagnosed with learning differences, we learned about twice-exceptionality (2e). However, a big question loomed: Were we alone? Were we the only ones with these unusually complex kiddos?
So it was that in mid-2018, I sat with my REEL Co-Founder, Yael. We looked at each other and decided we’d never know if we were the only ones if we didn’t at least make a concerted effort to meet other parents. Coming from entrepreneurial backgrounds, we decided to experiment—try things, iterate, fail forward. We committed to doing at least four events in the 2018-19 school year. The first was to screen the documentary 2e2: Teaching the Twice Exceptional, which focuses on how the Bridges Academy in Los Angeles weaves its magic to support twice-exceptional students. We scheduled two showings for November 29—the first for teachers, the second for parents—plus, we partnered with our local Community Advocacy Committee for Special Education in Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Educators’ Association.
And, what did we discover? Were we alone? No. We were and are not alone. Almost 30 educators and 80 parents showed up. In other words, November 29, 2018, propelled us down the path we are on today. Four years and one pandemic later, our email list is approaching 2k. We serve 400+ parents through our private Google group. We’ve hosted dozens of speaker events and support groups with thousands of RSVPs. Our event recordings have been watched over 10,000 times. And, we’ve had 13,000 site sessions on our website this year alone. Plus, we’re back in action with educators, hosting panels and workshops for learning specialists, local schools, and San Jose State University pre-service teachers.
This is all the more poignant for me, personally, because November 29, 2018, is also the day my dear dad passed away after a long battle with cancer. I’d said my goodbyes just after Thanksgiving. He’d sent me back from Kentucky to California knowing he wouldn’t see me again, but with encouragement and his blessing for me to follow this journey to support twice-exceptional kids. As a lifelong educator and a loving grandfather of neurodivergent grandchildren, he knew the work was important. I feel his presence in all that I do, but most especially everytime November 29 rolls around.
And because of this, I am sure that REEL’s work is as important as ever. We’re proud of our accomplishments and grateful to everyone who has joined us in creating this community of parents and educators gathering together in support of the 2e. It’s amazing and every day we hear a story that touches our hearts. But, there is so much more to do. We believe there are at least 9,000 2e children in Silicon Valley, and we know there are 35,000 educators in our schools. We’ve only scratched the surface to build our connections, ensuring no one is alone.
This Giving Tuesday is additionally special because it’s our first Giving Tuesday as an official nonprofit, with a goal to raise $100k by year end. To take the next steps and reach everyone who yearns to connect and learn more about these so often misunderstood children, we ask you, our community, to pitch in and contribute what you can, when you can. Because Giving Tuesday means so much more to us than just the financial gifts. For me, it means honoring my father, celebrating all we’ve accomplished, and dreaming of all we can do, together.