Prayers, Praise, and Performance
Many great things are happening in Laurens County School District 56 and across the county. Often the long-trudge from December to April is fraught with malaise, apathy, and an overall drudgery; however, we have been most fortunate to have had a banner year in the district.
Most recently, we have completed our partnership with the YMCA and concluded the latest “CHS/CMS Prayer Breakfast.” Careful attention is given to maintain clear separation of church and state. The breakfast is open to all students, community and civic groups, Presbyterian College and other interested adults. The actual program occurs during the high school’s FLEX time (@ 8:00 – 8:40 AM) when students are given the option to attend or participate in a whole slate of other club or activities.
This partnership is far more about community engagement with the schools than one could ever imagine. Having adults of all ages participate in the breakfast (and especially the students from PC) indicates the concern our community has for its students. The YMCA’s leadership team, Mr. Gene Simmons and Mr. Bryan Shealy, are instrumental partners in providing support for the breakfast and our food service director, Ms. Cindy Jacobs, and her staff feed hot breakfasts to anyone…many of whom haven’t eaten since their last meal at school.
This type of partnership would be very unlikely in larger communities. You see, in Clinton we understand the need for in-school and out-of-school supports for our students. Intellectual, ethical, and civic educational by-products are harvested daily because our community is large enough to get things done yet small enough to keep things intimate and personal.
January 2017 was also a banner month for us with the establishment of the Empowerment Centre at the Bell Street Facility. This program, coordinated by Allen and Angel Lawson, works to equip our middle and high school students (and even students from other districts) with additional afterschool tutoring (with PC student volunteers), job training (through various state grants), and other supports. This program works seamlessly with our already strong CC4Y program (our elementary program) led by Pastors Larry Merrill and Sherrill Green. Again, these types of opportunities provide a caring environment where community members work closely with the school system to provide extended wrap-around services for our students. This too is another wonderful way our small community provides a personal touch in our students’ lives following the lead-in lyrics of the old Cheers television show: “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.”
The season has been an exciting one as well for our district in many ways:
· The CHS Academic Team finished as First Runner-Up in the Western Piedmont Education Consortium (WPEC, 12 school districts in the lower Piedmont) and will compete for the Large School High School state academic title in Camden next week.
· The CMS Science Olympiad Team earned its fifteenth (15th) consecutive state championship at the South Carolina Science Olympiad Tournament held at Newberry College and will represent South Carolina this May at the National Science Olympiad Tournament at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
· Our CHS Boys’ Basketball Team won the Region III AAA Championship with an undefeated 10 – 0 record and earned a spot in the Upper State Championship (losing only to the eventual state champion).
· Our CHS Beta Club attended the South Carolina Beta Club Convention and earned numerous distinctions: 1st place (Math, Level I), Kari Young; 1st place (Spanish, Level I), Nazaria Santiago; 1st place (Science, Level II), Stephanie Braswell; 3rd place (Living Literature); and 3rd place (Fresh Look at Beta).
· Our CHS/CMS band programs earned special honors by having two students qualify and perform at the highly prestigious South Carolina Band Directors Association’s Region 2 Honor Band Clinic at Lexington High School. These two highly talented ladies, Rachel Vondergeest and Sienna Brent, earned their positions by competitive auditions in January (and both playing the very difficult French horn).
· Our CMS chorus program earned distinction when two students, Emmie Crowder and Emma Peoples, were selected to sing in Columbia at the USC Middle School Honors Choir.
· Our CHS Future Farmers of America team earned 3rd place in the South Carolina Dairy Judging Competition in early March.
· The CMS Academic Team won the WPEC Middle School Championship over a very talented Sanders Middle School Team. This team will accompany their high school counterparts to the Large Middle School state academic championship next week in Camden.
I don’t think these above accomplishments occur by luck, they occur by love! The students’ love of learning and its demonstration in competition is fueled by a love for community and its support. Small isn’t always bad; many times, it is the essence of that which is most important.
Clinton, Joanna, Cross Hill, Mountville, and all of Laurens County have much to be proud of! We may not have everything in our communities but we do have the most important thing, love!
Show love to your school, your community, and your family. I promise it will “do a body good.”
May it be so!
(Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of School District 56.)