The Cairo you pass through today on your way to bigger and better things, is an impoverished shell of the once bustling river town.
At the confluence of two mighty rivers, it was poised for success.
For a bunch of reasons, that moment was lost.
But there's more than meets the eye in Cairo.
It's easy to cast Cairo as a place where prosperity and opportunity don't exist.
But there are good things happening there, sometimes right under your chin.
As the school year winds down, spring fever has students running for the door when the last bell rings.
But not these boys and girls.
They're staying after school.
They're not in trouble.
They're staying because they want to learn more.
For the last four months, about 20, 3rd-6th grade students have spent two days a week learning to play one of the most difficult instruments, the violin.
At the head of the class, SIU graduate student Rossana Cauti.
"It's the first time I approached students who have never had music in the sense that they didn't read notes before," said instructor Rossana Cauti.
The violin is new to these kids and working with pupils this young is new to Rossana.
But they have struck a chord.
"(Do you think she is as a teacher?) She's a good teacher. Excellent teacher. Awesome. Teaching us violin and how to play a string."
Rachel Harrell's daughter Toree is one of the new violinists.
"She loves new challenges and I feel like this is a challenge being brought to her that on a regular basis isn't brought to a lot of kids," said Harrell.
Especially in a town like Cairo, with a population that registers below 3,000 and where nearly half the population lives in poverty and on government assistance.
"Though our parent base is sometimes economically challenged, that doesn't mean we can't provide some opportunities for the youth," said Harold Jones.
Program Director Harold Jones wrote the grant that paid for the violins.
He knows that music is a universal language and that the ear doesn't discriminate between rich and poor.
Over the last few months the boys and girls have gone from learning how to hold the violin to learning how to make the hour glass shaped instrument of wood and strings make music.
At the very least, the hope is that this becomes a hobby for the kids.
At the very most, that it raises the shade of despair to all the world has to offer.
"All of them probably won't be violinist, but having this exposure creates other opportunities," Jones said.
"They discover something they don't know and it can be something they love and are passionate about," Cauti said. "And we have to give the opportunity to kids to try everything as much as possible."
Students will perform for friends and family at a concert toward the end of May.