“Looking back I know we’ve come so far
But we’re the kind that have to raise the bar
I know it won’t be fast or for the faint of heart
But you and I can make it if we only start
And never part.”
These lyrics form the heart of an original song inspired by Ames students that’s part of a video project unveiled at this year’s District Staff Kick-off Assembly.
Producer Ali Locker, whose day job is Director of Teaching and Learning at Waukee Community School District, said that even though she’s been through tough lessons in life and learning before, the experience of working with Ames students, educators and families reminded her why she’s so passionate about education.
“I was reminded of why we started this in the first place….the students,” Locker said. “Because of the things that they bring out in us, each and every day, when we are willing to listen.”
Locker said life has taught her, no matter what she’d doing, to help herself and others walk through fear, ambiguity, self-doubt, judgment, vulnerability and challenge.
“But what I have learned is that you have to walk through these things in order to discover courage, resiliency, self-reflection, originality, authenticity and contribution,” she said. “I never expected that this summer with this project would shake me in the ways that it has.
In June, Locker with some of the directors in the District and learned about our dedication to the heart of each of our students.
“I heard about your commitment to the Ames community,” she said. “I heard about your newly renovated buildings and new access to technology. I was so excited to collaborate to see what we could create and how we could celebrate all of the amazingness that is the Ames Community School District.”
Locker’s crew started working on a song and planning for a video, and things began clicking away slowly, but surely.
“And then, by midsummer there were about a thousand roadblocks,” she said. “Not only had I miscommunicated some important steps, every day that I had cleared to do video shots, it was terribly gray and rainy. I had this thing so far off the rails, I wasn’t sure I could get it back on.”
Despite her experience, wisdom and skills, Locker said she began doubting “every single thing I had done up until that point.”
“I started to worry about judgment of the final product and was scared to death of trying to figure out how to make it all happen.” And then she got a message from our students.
“I had a phone conversation with two of your high school students, Lucy and Andrew,” she said. And they said, ‘We believe in this. Just believe in us.'”
And after that, Locker spoke to the grandparents of one of elementary students who came to the recording studio to sing.
“They shook my hand and told me that their granddaughter’s smile and confidence has grown through her involvement in the project,” she said.
“And then I showed up to Edwards Elementary on the day that class lists were posted. I spoke to several of your families and told them about the work we were doing, asked them to be on video and they responded with a huge ‘Yes’.”
Locker said, with her new inspiration, everyone found a way.
(Northwood Principal) Brandon Schrauth and (Mitchell Principal) Justin Jeffs stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me during the last month of this project and rallied some amazing troops,” she said.
Locker said it mattered a lot to her crew that they create something original that was completely written and designed for Ames.
“We decided to work with an amazing singer-songwriter from Des Moines named Jerry Lorenson,” she said. I … told him to work on a song that was uplifting and energetic and that could kickstart the school year. I told him to put students at the heart of the lyrics. He came back 3 weeks later with this chorus, which he said he wrote from the voice of the student speaking to a teacher. And I said, ‘yes.’ And production began.”
Without further ado, this is “Set to Go”, featuring Jerry Lorenson. And more importantly, featuring our students, our teachers and our district.