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Mississippi district using Damon West’s “The Coffee Bean” with all 4,820 students

All 4,820 students, faculty and staff at the Petal School District are taking part in a book study with “The Coffee Book: A Simple Lesson to Create Positive Change,” a book about the power of one’s environment – and steering it in a positive direction.

School district superintendent Matt Dillon passed out the book to all members of the district’s board of trustees during a recent board meeting. In addition, the book – which is authored by Jon Gordon and Damon West – will be given to every member of the district in the near future.

“I challenge you guys to read this alongside of us,” Dillon told the board. “This is going to be something that we embrace all year long.

“I had my kids read this – my oldest two – and I’ve read it twice now, and I’ve gleaned some good things.”

“The Coffee Bean: A Simple Lesson to Create Positive Change” by Jon Gordon and Damon West

“The Coffee Bean” invokes the lesson of changing one’s environment in a positive way by telling the story of Abe, a young man battling stress and fear from challenges at school and home. One day after class, Abe’s teacher shares with him the lesson of the coffee bean, which changes the way Abe thinks, acts and sees the world.

Through the story, Abe discovers that instead of letting his environment change him for the worse, he can transform any environment for the better.

“It’s just a really neat story; it’s really an illustrated fable,” Dillon said. “You’re going to think of how simple it is, but also about how powerful it is when you’re facing adversity.

“Really the gist behind this is, you impact your environment; you don’t let other things impact your environment.”

The book will be used as the book study at the school district’s administrative retreat, and will be purchased for every district employee. Students in kindergarten through fourth grade will receive the elementary version of the book.

“We’re obviously making a pretty big financial commitment to that, in order to purchase 4,200 (for students) and the 620 for our staff,” Dillon said. “But we feel very strongly, as we embrace a new school year – hopefully coming off of a pandemic and going back to whatever normal is – this is something that’s going to carry us on.”

West, who also authored “The Change Agent: How a Former College QB Sentenced to Life in Prison Transformed His World,” will be the keynote speaker at Petal School District’s convocation, and will virtually join an upcoming administrative meeting as well.

“We’re excited about that,” Dillon said. “He has spoken at a couple of other districts that I know of outside the state of Mississippi, and it’s been very well received.

“He has a neat story about facing adversity in his life, which landed him in prison. But now he has overcome that adversity, and he is changing his environment right now, and doing it in a positive way to give back to others.”

– By Haskel Burns, senior staff writer for The Pine Belt News. This story was reprinted with the permission of the author.