The “Before I Die” Wall Brings Inspiration


“I WANT TO...”: The completed wall invites students to make a goal for the future. Photo by: Holly Parkin

By Daniel Ardon

One morning, Ms. Hall asked our second period social studies class to respond to a journal question: What would we like to do before we die? The response was sort of like a bucket list. After answering the journal question, we watched a video from the popular conference “Ted.” In the video we watched a woman speak about a project in which she was involved. Candy Chang told a little about her upbringing in New Orleans. But more importantly, she told about how she had turned a wall of a building covered in ugly graffiti into a place where people would write down something they would want to do before they die.

Like Chang, I thought that this project would inspire people to think more about their ambitions and dreams for their futures and become more unified as a community. Thus, my class had the thought of doing the same thing at Tam. I immediately liked the idea because it gave me an opportunity to think about my hopes for the future. One of those hopes is to return to my home country of Honduras where I made many memories and where most of my family resides.

The first step in making this project come to life was asking for the principal’s permission. Our class created a PowerPoint presentation and proposed the idea to Principal Robert Vieth. Almost immediately, he responded with support for the project, which made me excited.

Soon after the approval we got to work. After some important decision making and delegation, we reached out for the help of woodshop teacher Geo Monley. He graciously agreed to help us design and build our structure. He gave us access to all the supplies and knowledge we would need to make this project come to life. Before I knew it we had finished our blueprint of the structure and begun construction.

I felt a little nervous presenting the project to the student body, but within thirty minutes the wall was filled. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I saw the progress of the wall. Some of the entries were funny. One of my favorite entries referenced the recent Spring Showcase, saying, “Before I die I want to Tell Z what I wanna do.” Other favorites included: “Before I die I want to be the very best that no one ever was,” referencing Pokemon, and “Before I die I want to ride a unicorn.”

On a more serious note, there were also many thoughtful responses that caught my eye. The first read, “Before I Die I want to see equality.” When I saw this quote I was very glad to know that someone else thinks like me and has the same ideals. Another entry read, “Before I Die I want to give my love a million kisses.” Upon reading this quote I felt a rush of warmth inside me from the pure sweetness of the response. Finally, I saw “Before I Die I want to save a life.” After reading this I felt a sense of happiness knowing that someone wants to make a difference in the world.

I spent some time observing the wall and was pleased to notice people making supportive comments and appreciating each other’s humor and creativity. I could see how people valued the wall because it gave them an opportunity to dream and be distracted from the pressure of their daily lives. Not only has the wall changed people’s attitudes but it has also changed the energy around the actual area the wall is located. Since the wall has been up I continue to see many people gathering in that area which has really brought more life to the space.

I believe the project was a big success because people don’t often get to publically share their dreams. In addition, I believe it was successful because it gives people a chance to relax, laugh and imagine the possible and impossible.

The construction of the Before I Die wall has left me feeling inspired. It was great to see how much we could accomplish when we exhibited drive and determination. My hope is that the Tam community will enjoy the project as much as I have enjoyed being involved in it. I have put a great deal of time and energy into this project so I am excited to see this social experiment in action and get to know the Tam student body on a more meaningful level. I hope that every student will have the opportunity to share their ambitions and goals for the future with the school.