Stay the Course

I had a conversation with a recent graduate of Berkeley Springs High School last weekend at the Naked Olive. My first thought was, “Young lady put down that drink! You’re 15!”. She saw the look of concern on my face and said, “I’m 21. I graduated with your son.”

Good grief. I’m officially old. But with age comes wisdom, usually. So as this young lady and I talked the conversation turned to education, specifically how it’s being handled during such a tumultuous time in history. I told her about all the interventions and extra supports our school system has in place, about all of the efforts of our staff to account for each student, as well as all the frustration and tears. As our conversation came to a close I said, “We will do whatever we have to do to make sure our students learn what they need to know. I’m just not sure what that looks like yet.”

This precious young lady looked at me and said words that I’ll treasure forever:

“Thank God for people like you who give us hope.”

It had been a particularly defeating week for me in some ways and those words were, I believe, divine intervention. Every time I feel like giving up in my life, God has always used someone else’s words as an outstretched hand. Thankfully I’ve always embraced it, stood up and continued walking forward.

My gift to you is just that – acknowledgment of your steadfast efforts and encouragement to stay the course. We don’t do what we do to be acknowledged, but I want you each to know that I see you, and if I see you others see you. The impact you are making is profound now and will endure as part of your legacy.

First I want to acknowledge Kristen Tuttle and everyone at the board office. You have the impossible job of keeping our kids safe, educated and fed, all while adjusting plans daily, sometimes hourly, fielding calls from parents and guardians, maintaining hope in your staff…I can’t even imagine how difficult that is and how heavily it weighs on you, but you are doing a great job. Stay the course.

Beth Golden, I know you’re part of the board but you need your own paragraph. You wear so many hats, and you wear them all beautifully. Thank you for helping me do my job, and for all the endless hours you out into being a perfectionist. Now sit down, eat cookies and stop organizing stuff. (Just for a few days!!)

Sandy Mellott, you have served the Boys and Girls Club well during this time, coordinating food, making sure the kids had access to tutoring, seeing that your families had support during the holidays…your commitment does not go unnoticed. 

Christie Butts, Amie Tutor, Amie Middlekauf and Michael Wilder, each of you has taken the reigns of MC After 3 at your site so well it makes my job so much easier and more importantly, enriches the lives of the children and families we serve. MC After 3 teachers, you are an integral part of that dynamic and I thank each and every one of you for your creativity and flexibility during this time. Our kids will undoubtedly be better off as a result.

Rhett Beckman, Jamie Harris, Les Morris, Mitch Nida and all of our amazing administration at each school, you are all doing a great job. Any time I need you, you’re only a text away. I know you’ve got my back and I’ve definitely got yours. You also have the impossible task of seeing that our students learn despite the barriers many have…you and your teachers have come up with some really creative solutions and made access to a virtual education more effective by the day. Speaking of teachers, Dee Hiles, you will always have a special place in my heart for the encouragement you’ve provided my daughter and all of your students. Your words have been the difference between hope and despair, and that, my friend, is powerful.

Dawn Beal, Cindy Hill and once again Rhett, you guys have been my Monday crew since March. I see the hours each of you put into what you do, the special effort made by you to add joy and a taste of normalcy for our students as they come through to pick up meals. You are also my source for off-color jokes and stories that just make life better in general. 

The Morgan County Partnership is always top-notch, but Angie and Sheima set the bar so high. You guys have worked so hard to create incredible Positive Action content for each school that we can share through our app as well as our very own website at positivevaluesnetwork.com…what you do is immeasurable and we are all better for it.

Parents and guardians, there are so many of you that I know and love…this is hard stuff, to be the education facilitator on top of regular parent/guardian duties. Will these people ever leave the house again? Why do they eat so much? Why is it the only time they need us is when we are on a work call, or in the bathroom? I don’t know the answers, but I do know that it’s just as if not harder on them than it is on us. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, and let us never forsake the gathering of our minds together to share ways we’ve remained sane. 

Last but not least, our students…your lives have changed so drastically. I can’t even begin to understand what you must be experiencing. Loss of time with friends, not being able to do extracurricular activities, being forced to spend unending amounts of time with siblings and parents (even though that’s blessing for you, right, Aubrey, Lily and Maddie?…Is that a yes??). But seriously kids, we are all working hard to make sure you’re taken care of in every way. Keep moving forward. As a wise meme once said, “If there is a difference between success and failure, it is the moment you don’t give up and the moment you do”. 

This community is exemplary. We are all blessed to be part of such a network of committed, consistent humans. I am honored to be among such a diverse consortium, each using their gifts and talents to selflessly affect positive change. Sometimes the best things in life come out of the worse situations. 2020 had a bumper crop of lemons; in 2021 let’s be famous for our lemonade. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Morgan County!

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