“I fainted at my desk. I just fell down, like hard,” third grader Robert Lee said. “I was very happy.”
This was his reaction to receiving a personal letter from President Donald Trump.
Every other year, Michelle Dunn’s third and fourth grade class take an interactive approach to learning about different states and regions across the United States. Since a countrywide field trip isn’t an option, the third and fourth graders send a “Flat Stanley” version of themselves around the country.
The St. Agnes students read the children’s book, Flat Stanley, that tells the story of a little boy who was flattened by a billboard and goes on all kinds of adventures. In the story, Flat Stanley’s parents thriftily decide to mail Stanley instead of buying him an airplane ticket.
And so the tradition began of students creating paper versions of themselves and sending them across the world to different individuals. The student’s Flat Stanley is accompanied with a letter instructing the recipient to send a postcard back to the student detailing their adventures with Flat Stanley and then to send the letter and Flat Stanley on to someone else.
“A lot of our kids don’t leave the state,” Dunn said. “It’s a good experience for them to learn about the other places that are out there.”
The children research the different states they receive postcards from and then present their postcards and state research at a big celebration of learning event in May for their parents.
Most kids send their Flat Stanley to their grandparents or aunts and uncles. But Robert had a different plan in mind. He wanted to send his Flat Stanley to the Oval Office.
“Well, I voted for the President so I just wanted to see if he would respond because he’s a busy man,” Robert said.
“I have never had a student want to do that before,” Dunn said. “It was great but at the same time I wasn’t expecting him to send something back. Everyday Robert was asking me if we’d got anything back.”
Robert sent another Flat Stanley to his grandmother’s friend in California. But he believes that version was destroyed in the wild fires there. As other kids were receiving postcards from across the U.S., Robert held out hope that he’d hear from the president.
They sent Robert’s Flat Stanley to the D.C. in September and a large envelope arrived in January complete with an official letter describing Flat Stanley’s trip to the Harry Truman Bowling Alley and tour of the White House. Flat Stanley now sported his very own official White House tour badge.
“He went bowling,” Robert said. “I like bowling. For my birthday I’m probably going to go bowling. I’m turning 10.”
Robert said he and his mom have big plans to laminate the letter and hang it up on his wall at home. The President shared some inspiring words with Robert that he has taken to heart.
“Make good ideas. Dream big,” Robert paraphrased the letter. “You can make a change in the world.”