Mountainous inspiration under development

Inspiration can come from the most unusual places. In the instance described below, several important lessons emanate from a middle school in the northern Arkansas community of Green Forest. With a population just over 1,200, most of us wouldn’t peg Green Forest as the locus of technological innovation. That’s where we’d be wrong.

Students at the Green Forest Middle School were recently highlighted in a report aired by KY3, a Springfield, Mo., television station. As reported, a group of five intrepid students have just developed an iPhone App — Computer TS — that’s now for sale on iTunes.

Nick Luebbering, Conner Glassell, Jayce Martin, Colin Stimson, and Lexi Diaz met in the school’s computer lab. None of them had any prior experience creating apps. They used a program developed by Apple called Xcode.

“I looked at Xcode. I just sat down one day and started looking through it to see what it took,” said Luebbering.

As with most nascent projects, the venture was not without some difficulties.

“We’re still going through and polishing it,” Glassell said.

As anyone who has ever used a piece of software for any length of time knows, such refinements are just part of the process. Users know this and expect it.

While they’ve only sold about 100 copies, that’s not really the point. To paraphrase the old adage — it’s the making, not the selling that matters.

“We posted it all over social networks to get the word out. And we were getting 200 clicks every time we refreshed the page. So that was pretty exciting,” Martin said.

Green Forest Middle School Principal Rebecca Brasel beams with obvious pride: “A lot of things in life take collaboration. That’s what they’ve learned what to do. I’m so proud of them. I like to brag to them wherever I go.”

As well she should.

Predictably, they aren’t done yet. They have another app under development. They are also considering the creation of some educational apps.

While the Green Forest story is cute and uplifting, it ought to serve a deeper purpose. It’s not the story of five little prodigies who just happen to find each other somewhere in the Ozarks. It’s a story about five kids who were encouraged enough to think they could do something big — and then they went out and did it.

Do you suppose that these kids are somehow inherently better, smarter or more savvy than the students we have right here in Pine Bluff? Our record of National Merit Scholars, Rhodes Scholars and other academic high achievers suggests we have an equally promising crop right before us.

What then makes Green Forest different? One word: Motivation.

We need to light as big and bright a fire as possible under our kids. We need them to know that we have full faith and confidence in them; that we support them; that we believe in their inherent promise and potential.

While we could recite the litany of shortfalls present in our local schools, it’s not the children who are the failure. They are empty vessels, waiting to be filled with knowledge, skills and passion. Yes, there are some with unavoidably rough edges. Many local students come form homes that are unenviable, if not openly horrible. That’s why they need us even more desperately.

If we want greatness from them, we are obliged to give them the tools and the encouragement necessary to achieve it. This is a tall order to be sure, but it’s no Mt. Everest — but then again, those kids in Green Forest only climbed the Ozarks.