Share the letter, help write a happy ending
Posted: Friday, August 27, 2010 8:02 pm
By: By Glenda Caudle
The Messenger’s reporters usually take advantage of the Friday “Just a Thought” opportunity to make our readers laugh or cry or cheer or rage. The choice of subject matter is a highly individual one.
This Friday I choose to write about something that has the power to make me laugh or cry or cheer or rage — depending on precisely what I hear or see or read or experience about it. The general topic is education. The specific interest is graduation.
In July, members of the Union City Board of Education committed themselves to a direct and very personal effort to encourage students within the local school system to persist in efforts to earn that all-important high school diploma.
Clearly, this is not a goal board members can forcibly drag students toward. If only it were that simple, I know six good and true elected officials who would join me in grabbing a student’s hand and pulling them over the finish line personally.
However, we all know there’s more involved than the desire of school board members to provide an educational experience that sees every child within their community enter the school system, profit from each day’s lessons, latch on to a dream and emerge 13 years later with diploma in hand, goal accomplished and ambitious new plans embarked upon.
Teachers, principals, directors, administrators, coaches, counselors and everyone else who encounters a student on a day-to-day basis within the confines of the school community plays their own role. Volunteers who devote themselves to tutoring and encouraging perform a vital function. Churches, clubs and mentors each contribute where they have the opportunity. And families are indispensable to the achievement of the long-term goal of graduation.
And yet, still, we “lose” young men and women on the edge of adulthood each year.
We lose them to “just another day” instead of a celebration day when they can don a cap and gown and hear their name called over a loud speaker as they receive a hand shake and a folder that will frame their diploma. We lose them to a “dead-end street” existence instead of a future filled with opportunity. We lose them to a culture of blame-game frustration with life instead of a positive ethic based on the acceptance of personal responsibility and commitment to an attainable plan for tomorrow. We lose them to a dispirited future of wasted days and wasted nights instead of tomorrows shaped by the satisfaction of utilizing talent and ability to achieve. We lose them to negative self-image that intones “they owe it to me” instead of positive perceptions of self as responsible, contributing citizens in the greatest nation on earth. We lose them to ongoing generational failure to achieve instead of the satisfaction of establishing a new family standard for success.
Were I to list the obstacles some students face to graduation, you might well wonder how some of them manage to cope with the simplest of expectations from the school system. At the same time, were I to share the opportunities wasted by some students, you might wonder if additional effort on their behalf was warranted. The point is, no student’s story is exactly like any other.
The thing that does bind them together, however, is the absolute imperative of preparing themselves for the future, no matter what the script has been to this point.
The efforts local schools, churches, organizations, individuals and families are making on behalf of these students are diverse and numerous and are subject to innovation, adaptation and commitment to the tried and true. No attempt is too large or too small if someone is willing to undertake it and someone’s child will benefit.
That brings us to today’s “real” column — because what you have read to this point is simply an explanatory introduction.
With the advantage of small school system on its side, the Union City School Board decided to approach students one-on-one and encourage them to pursue that important diploma goal. Members elected to begin with this year’s freshman class at Union City High School, recognizing that they stand at an important goal-setting moment. The idea is a simple one, which may or may not bear a bumper crop when harvest time comes: each board member would write a personal note to several members of the Class of 2014, encouraging them to work toward graduation. The goal is to personally contact each of those students and remind them that their future is important and the time to actively work toward a success story is now.
Members of the board are currently writing and sending out their own individual notes — some to teens whose names and faces are familiar to them already and some to freshmen they have not yet met but whose names will, no doubt, stick firmly in their minds, whose faces they will now seek out and whose future they will be interested in henceforth.
What follows here is a second “general” letter to the entire UCHS Class of 2014 from the Union City School Board. It will not arrive by snail mail or e-mail, addressed specifically to a freshman; it will only be printed here and, hopefully, passed on to them by someone who also cares about their future — someone who will then commit themselves to helping that student achieve the graduation goal.
Dear UCHS freshman,
Congratulations on your new status at Union City High School!
Over the next four years, we hope you will create wonderful memories, establish long-lasting relationships, discover many new and exciting things about the world and your place in it and build a strong foundation for success in your future.
There are many people who are looking forward to helping you accomplish all those goals. They will become familiar names and faces to you as you travel on your high school journey.
You may not recognize us — the members of the Union City School Board — because we are not among those important people who teach and coach and counsel you every day. You, however, are extremely important to us. You are the reason we have committed ourselves to making Union City schools the best we can make them.
As young people have throughout the ages, you represent the future of our community and the hope we have for this nation, so you have a pretty big job in front of you.
We know we have an obligation to you as you prepare for that task and we take that very seriously. Our goal is to see you march proudly onto the field at War Memorial Stadium in 2014 and receive a diploma that represents your best efforts and our best provision for your opportunity to succeed.
You could say we are all a team in this, and you know already that UCHS turns out winning teams over and over again.
Perhaps you have always found school an adventure and have committed yourself, even from kindergarten, to academic success. What a terrific game plan!
But maybe you have found school a struggle and have dreaded the time spent in the classroom. It’s not too late to change that outlook and enjoy the satisfaction of setting goals and achieving them. There are lots of people who want to help you make that change. You’ll be meeting them all around UCHS. They are your “academic success” team mates.
It’s possible, too, that like most young people your age, you just haven’t yet seriously considered what an education will mean to you in the future.
We have been thinking about it, however, and we are convinced that no matter what attitude you have had about your education in the past, you can determine now to make the most of your time at UCHS. To make any other decision is to limit your future and — quite honestly — it means you are just preparing for failure instead.
We are convinced you are too smart for such dead-end goals. We know you can claim the trophy that represents high school completion.
We will do everything we can to help you meet your educational challenges, because we want to see your name in bold letters on that important diploma. It will say something about you, you see. It will tell the world you are someone willing to work toward goals, devote yourself to achieving your dreams and commit yourself to doing your best.
Wherever life takes you in the future, those attributes will prove valuable.
We’ll be looking for you at so many high school events over the next four years: ball games, band competitions, banquets and celebrations, school dances, classroom competitions of all kinds, things happening in and out of classroom settings. You’ll probably be much too busy to notice us, but we will be paying attention to you.
Every time we see you, what we will be thinking is this: “You can do it!”
And when we hand you your diploma, everyone else will know it is true, as well.
You will be a winner! What a great day that will be!
Go, UCHS Class of 2014!
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 8.27.10