Marianna- Had you met Dr. Ben Carson in the early days of his youth, you would have probably have never guessed he'd one day become Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkin's Children Center- let alone consider putting his name in the hat to run for President of the United States in 2016.
"Reading was so vitally important in my transformation from being a terrible student- to the extent that people thought I should be in special education- to moving to the top of the class," Carson explained.
Carson told us, had he not developed a love for reading, his humble upbringing could have been difficult to overcome.
"Between the covers of those books I could go anywhere, I could be anybody, I could do anything. And, I basically left the world of the ghetto and traveled the world through those books," he said.
Carson said what he had in common with everyone were challenges. He told us, while everyone faces adversity, he hoped to be an inspiration of what life could be for kids who felt overwhelmed.
That fighting spirit was not lost on eight year old Hunter Vandusen, His challenge has been living with a hearing impairment.
"How do you like the reading room? Do you like it," Hunter's interpreter, Kelli Todd asked him.
"Yes" Hunter squealed, "This" excitedly pointing to a sign hanging from the ceiling.
"What does that say," Todd asked. "Think big," he said with a smile.
Thinking big, he was. And as far as creating the jungle themed treading room, the teachers thought big too.
"I wish I had kept a log of [the time], the teachers worked after school and on the weekends to create this environment. Certainly they stretched their imagination and creativity," Principal, Phyllis Daniels said.
We've kind of kept it secret," Teacher, Brian Bowman explained. "We even had news paper on the windows hiding it so it would be a surprise and we'd spark the interest. Here and there I'd show pictures to kids and got them talking about it. Then, once we got it all finished, we brought all the classes out here the other day so they could all see it. Just the delight on the kids faces- I've seen kids speechless."
As for hunter...
"What are some of your favorite animals in here," Todd asked.
"This one," Hunter said, pointing to the cheetah painted on the wall. "It can run fast!"
Jackson Alternative School is the 89th Reading Room in the country and became the first in the state of Florida.