ATLANTA — A big red ball, books, education and a group of people helped young Kevin Carroll rise from a situation that social workers saw as hopeless to a college graduate with degrees in communication and sports medicine.
An author and speaker, Carroll shared his story in a keynote at the ISTE conference on Tuesday, June 30, about how play connected him and helped him belong. And he encouraged the educators who were listening to bring play back into school and to start each day by modeling curiosity and humility for students.
"They might seem like small acts, but our collective impact will be great," Carroll said. "Each of us has the ability to affect someone's lives. Enjoy your chase, peace, and play."
Here is the red ball story that started Carroll on his journey to where he is today.
Six-year-old Kevin Carroll expected to find plenty of kids to play with at a playground in his grandparents' neighborhood. But he was sorely disappointed: The playground was empty.
After wandering around for a little while, he spotted a red rubber ball at the far end of the playground. He ran to it, excited about the possibility of playing kickball, dodgeball, and whiffleball. He kicked it, first in joy, then in anger as he asked, "Where's my mom? Where's my dad?"
His dad had left home when he was younger, and his mom moved Kevin and his two brothers frequently in the middle of the night to different places. One day, his older brother disappeared for most of the day, and that pattern continued for several days. Kevin finally asked him where he went. "First grade!" he said. The school gave his brother food, and he got to do homework, which Kevin wanted to do too.
His mom promised that they wouldn't move anymore and that Kevin could go to first grade the following year. Fast forward to the next year, and Kevin went to first grade for two weeks. He loved it.
But then, his mom broke her promise.....
Photo by Tanya Roscorla