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K-State Today

March 24, 2015

Documentary screening April 7 to feature Midwest kindness

Submitted by Patrice Scott

Vale la Pena: Revolutionizing Hearts, Minds, and Communities

"Vale la Pena: Revolutionizing Hearts, Minds and Communities" will premiere at 2:30 p.m. April 7 in Forum Hall of the K-State Student Union.

The film brings together many voices to tell the stories of Ecuadorian ESL teachers on campus to perfect their English language skills and learn new teaching strategies. The students were ESL teachers from Ecuador and are part of their country's GoTeacher program.

A blizzard, a bus driver and a restaurant manager showed a group of international students what Manhattan, Kansas, is all about. Jim Wright, Carlos O'Kelly's manager, and Willie Hedgecock, a driver with ATA Bus, appear in the documentary. Both display qualities the Midwest is best known for — warmth and kindness.

Everything was planned. The flights were scheduled. The dining halls had closed. Then, it started snowing.

It was 4:30 a.m. Christmas morning and an Ecuadorian teacher didn't meet the bus. She overslept. The ATA driver got her apartment number and knocked until she opened the door.

"I only had a certain amount of time to get them there or they would have had to find another way to get there," Hedgecock said of driving them to the airport. "They are far away from home you know, their families are back home. I just tried to show them a little bit of respect and kindness."

The teachers must have made an impression because Hedgecock is considering making a change to his life based on their interactions.  

"I miss them," Wright said. "I miss Carlos, Marco, Edwardo, Edgar, Jessica, Joanna. If I can, I want to go to Ecuador. That would be a nice place to retire and live out the rest of my life there."

As the day wore on, a blizzard paralyzed the city. Flights were cancelled.

A few simple words were enough for Wright, Carlos O'Kelley's manager, to spring into action. The restaurant provided a free meal to the stranded teachers.

"'Jim, we have a problem, and I need your help," Wright said of the phone call he received at home explaining the situation.

"Many of them (Ecuadorian teachers) were crying because they loved their families," Wright said. "We tried to celebrate the occurrence and their experience and give them confidence that it would be all right."

The documentary is being sponsored by the K-State College of Education and Global Campus.

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