Our mission in the Helena-West Helena School District is to produce graduates who are prepared for life as responsible, productive, and caring citizens.  At this month’s board meeting, in the midst of one of the busiest summers in recent memory, our School Board remained focused on that mission with the passage of two initiatives:  a Cadet Program and a Volunteer Service Credit policy.

Part of becoming a good citizen is the inculcation of values reflecting an understanding that an individual has a responsibility to more than just himself/herself.  In all walks of life, we see an increasing amount of the volunteer hours being performed by a steadily decreasing number of people.  When asked to help, we hear from more people that they will only help if they receive compensation.  In short, we have more people who see no need to help others.  One of our hopes in our school district is that we can instill a sense of responsibility to our fellow man and a spirit of volunteerism in our students.

I saw this happen while I was a student at Ouachita Baptist University.  In the wake of a devastating tornado that hit Arkadelphia when I was there, our university saw a need to galvanize our students and staff to be a volunteer force to help our community.  This led to the OBU Center for Family and Community which coordinates a number of programs to connect the university’s students and staff with volunteer opportunities throughout the community.

The school district’s implementation of a course credit for Volunteer Service, while not as elaborate as the efforts I witnessed at Ouachita Baptist, is a step in that direction to instill those kinds of values in our students by placing emphasis on the importance of volunteer service.  We can’t be good citizens if all we believe in is ourselves. We have to feel a responsibility to our community and the humanity that surrounds us.

This initiative, passed unanimously by the School Board with Mr. Hoy’s recommendation, will allow students to receive a credit to be counted toward the requirements for graduation upon completion of 75 hours of approved community service.  Hopefully, students will realize the importance of charity through the completion of this work and realize that it will be more rewarding in many ways than the financial rewards they receive from their chosen vocation later in life.  I know that many of the moments I deem to have been most satisfying in my life came from the helping of others.

In addition to caring about others, another essential piece of being a good citizen is a strong sense of patriotism and a love of country.  As a teacher of U. S. History and American Government who helped to write the current content standards for secondary teachers of Social Studies, this is an issue near and dear to my heart and is one of the reasons I was thrilled that Mr. Hoy worked with Steven Heard, one of our teachers who is a veteran, to find a cost effective way to bring this kind of program back to our district after JROTC had to be discontinued as part of budget cuts several years ago.

It is important that these patriotic values are inculcated to each successive generation in order for our society to continue.  Freedom is only one generation away from being threatened.  The men and women who protect our country are vital and should be given the utmost respect.  We try to accomplish the passing on of these values in our history, government and civics courses, but I also think that programs like the Cadet Corps are important to make available to those students with a heightened interest in possibly serving our country.  We are fortunate that we found a cost effective way to provide this sequence of courses to our students.

In closing, these two initiatives are just another example of the Helena-West Helena School District moving forward to become the district that provides the kind of well-rounded education that the students of this community deserve.  They also serve as another reason why parents should send their students to our district because we provide the widest array of programs available in the area.  I am proud to be associated with this district and to have the opportunity to serve.  I am also proud that my son and grandson are getting the opportunity to attend Central High School.  It’s an exciting time to be in Cougar Country.  Give us a chance.  Sign your child up today for school in the Helena-West Helena School District, where great things happen every day.

Until next time, GO COUGARS!