Mayor educates students on travel, diversity
Carson Hickox helps Mike Schmitz, Dothan mayor, demonstrate how heavy a backpack can be when mountain climbing.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 28, 2013) -- Military children are no strangers to moving and meeting new people, but Mike Schmitz, mayor of Dothan, visited the Fort Rucker Primary School to expand students' horizons by talking to them about world travel.

The entire school attended the event, and days after the assembly most still remembered what Schmitz talked about and took away some vital lessons, according to Deborah Deas, Fort Rucker Primary School principal.

"The children learned and remembered that you can't sleep well on a mountain because you roll down your tent, that it's very cold on a mountain and it's hard to breath when you get high in the air. But more importantly, they understood that you have to try really hard to reach your goals," she said.

The mayor's motto is 'Together we can build,' and the school's motto is 'Together we can,' and Schmitz worked that into his presentation about cultural diversity.

"He is a strong supporter of education and children, and he taught them an important message -- that together, no matter our backgrounds, we can work together to get anything accomplished," said Deas.

Schmitz traveled to Mount Kilimanjaro during the New Year with his son and recounted the struggles of the climb as well as the teamwork it took by everyone, of many nationalities, to reach the top.

"Meeting people from different places around the world who were climbing with us was wonderful. We met good, life-long friends. It is great to travel the world, and as you do, meeting all sorts of people. We are all alike, though we all have different languages and cultures. Learning new things is the best thing to do when meeting new people," he said.

"When you are trying to accomplish something, if you try to do it by yourself you can't do it as well as if everyone worked together. When you work together you can make life better for everyone, even though you are different and may disagree at times," he added.

Schmitz also related his climb to the steady pace children have to take to achieve things.

"Because we were so high we had to go really slow so we could breathe. Slow and steady; you have to remember that for lots of things in life. Slow and steady wins the race," he said, adding that the highlight was seeing his son overcome those challenges because they were so difficult.

Schmitz gave a small geography lesson to the children telling them what it takes to travel to another country, where Mount Kilimanjaro is and the language that the people of Tanzania speak. He also taught the children how to say hello and thank you in Swahili.

He also went into detail about mountain climbing, sometimes bringing excited gasps out of the children.

"It is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. It took us 10 days to climb the mountain. It was 85 miles and it rained most of the time," he told them.

Many of the children's favorite part of the assembly was the circle of life lesson on what a safari is and seeing all the photographs of the animals up close.

"I liked seeing all the pictures of the animals and learning about climbing," said Sarah Swanson.

"The animals were really neat and I will climb a mountain like that one day, just with no snow," said Trey Hughett.

To help the children understand the difficult task of climbing the mountain he had some volunteers try on his boots and his pack, and let the students practice with his trekking poles as well as had others hold the amount of water they had to carry each day.

"We were on top of the clouds, so we had to carry our own water, and water is heavy," he said as he handed the pack to a child, nearly toppling the student over.

Schmitz left the children by telling them they could accomplish anything they put their minds to.

"You can do anything you want to do, but you are going to have to make a commitment, you are going to have to prepare yourself for it and then you have to realize that there are going to be struggles that you have to work through. You have to work hard," he said.

Page last updated Thu February 28th, 2013 at 00:00