Robert Jasso knew his students needed something beyond what he could give them in his classroom. The English teacher at Duncanville’s Central Elementary School saw some of them struggling.
“I noticed a lot of our children were not able to make a connection with reading assignments by relating them to their experiences,” Mr. Jasso said. “Their families are not able to afford vacations or extracurricular activities for their children.”
Mr. Jasso drew on his own childhood experience, where his uncles taught him to play the guitar at seven years old, to share with students his passion for music.
“Growing up, if it hadn’t been for guitar music, I probably would have struggled more than I did,” Jasso said.
Earlier this year, Mr. Jasso started the Central Elementary School Guitar Club. He sent out an invitation to the entire third and fourth grade. Of those 200 students, more than 100 applied. He accepted 50 kids. But he still had a problem. He only had enough guitars for a fraction of the students. The few instruments Mr. Jasso had were donations he solicited from a local music store.
One of the students, 9-year old Teagan Levingston, told his parents about the dilemma.
“He came home and he was like, ‘Momma, we don’t have enough guitars. Everybody can’t practice,’” Latasha Crenshaw said. “It bothered him.”
Ms. Crenshaw says her family brainstormed for a solution. Teagan suggested they raise money to purchase additional guitars, and they went to the store to purchase candy and drinks. Teagan’s older sister sold the snacks at school, and on weekends she and Teagan set up a stand outside their house. In three weeks, they had about $300.
The family purchased nine guitars. Teagan kept their fundraising a secret until it was time to deliver them to Mr. Jasso. The teacher, who gives off a tough-guy vibe with his ponytail and tattoos, teared up when he accepted the donation.
“I was so surprised,” Jasso said. “We had no idea Teagan was working on this.”
“It made me feel good. Both of us feel good that we could do something to help,” Ms. Crenshaw said.
Teagan is ready to start strumming again this school year. He says he feels like a rock star when he plays the guitar. “It’s just my favorite instrument,” he said.
Mr. Jasso’s hope is that the lessons learned at guitar club activities will carry over into the classroom.
“I want them to learn how to be determined not only how to play the guitar, but to take that into their schoolwork and be the best students they can be,” Mr. Jasso said.