Last week was a great week for the Helena-West Helena School District as the track at Cad Polk Stadium held its first track meet since 2009. As I visited with Jr. and Sr. Boys Track Coach/Athletic Director Russell Smith about the significance of that moment and the plans to come, he and I began to reminisce about how far Central High School has come in that eight year period athletically, academically, and in terms of our reputation statewide. It really is an exciting time to be a Cougar as we see HWHSD rising up and on the verge of so many great things.
I want to begin my thoughts this week by once again thanking the Helena Health Foundation for providing a grant for 50% of the cost of the track renovation and drainage improvements at Cad Polk Stadium. HWHSD would not have been able to host this event had it not been for this significant and gracious contribution from the Helena Health Foundation, which is doing great work throughout our community.
This project has had an impact far beyond Cougar and Lady Cougar athletics. First, this project enabled us to host a track meet which allowed, not only our athletes, but teams from Barton, Marvell, and KIPP to get to run a track meet without having to drive significant distances to do so. This allowed parents from all four of those schools to get to watch their kids when, due to the early start of most track meets, most could not have if it wasn’t hosted by the Helena-West Helena School District.
This also kept those local dollars at home as parents and students spent money either in the HWH Booster Club concession stand or at one of our local restaurants. Money also flowed from out of town schools as well since Earle, Brinkley, and Palestine-Wheatley competed as well. We will have a total of three track meets at Cad Polk Stadium this year with those same six schools and Marianna competing. This is good for our athletes and parents as well as those from districts in our surrounding communities It is also a positive thing for our community as it shows one small example of the positive economic impact that CHS Cougar and Lady Cougar athletics have on our local economy.
As I sat and listened for the gun to go off for the first race, my mind reflected on all of the progress we have made and all of the people that have been involved in it. Watching the joy on our kids faces at the opportunity to run in front of our home crowd on our own track was one of those special moments that reminds me of the importance of the work we do in public education and it reminded me that great schools and great communities are something that go hand in hand.
I remember Cad Polk Stadium in 2009 after the last track meet. The track was showing wear and tear. The old wood bleacher seating was deteriorating and the lighting was deficient. Look at where we are today with the hard work of our community partners through entities like the Helena Health Foundation, the Booster Club, the volunteers, and the individual and business donors. We still have work to do but we now have good lighting, presentable seating that is safe, a nice track, and concession facilities that will now pass a Health Department inspection. We still have work to do, but that is why Cad Polk Stadium is a metaphor for where we are as district- improving but not quite where we want it to be.
It’s also an example for what can be accomplished when we all start pulling together behind the public school system and other projects. None of this could have happened without the hard work and the partnership of many individuals and groups both within and outside the school district. It was a joy to be a part of and extremely satisfying to watch come to fruition. The most rewarding part was the smile on the faces of our kids and the joy evidenced by the reaction of the parents who were able to come watch their children because of this work.
Great things are happening every day in the Helena-West Helena School District and great days are out in front of us. Let’s keep working together to have great schools and a great community.
Until next time, GO COUGARS!