Commentary: Schools are foundation of our community

Katheryn Freakley

As I watched the class of 2017 toss their caps into the sunset sky on what was a perfect June evening, I started thinking about everyone it took to get these kids across that stage and I couldn’t help but feel a tear well up at the thought of such sacrifice and pride.

Our students certainly deserve every accolade earned for the hard work, determination and perseverance it takes to receive a high school diploma, but it’s more than just SOLs, grade point averages, class rank and a framed piece of fancy paper. It’s the culmination of years, and years, and years of dedication by our students backed by an entire community.

It’s every parent, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, and neighbor dropping off and picking up from a practice or meeting, helping with homework, and giving endless encouragement and advice through the good and the bad.

It’s every local business donating supplies, time and money for the drama department, chorus and band, field trips, FCCLA, FFA, Skills USA, chrome books, extra library books, providing internships and jobs for our graduates. It’s every athletic booster, ticket sale, bake sale, fruit sale, and PTO fundraiser. It takes every one of us working together with the same purpose: supporting our kids.

It certainly takes our school resource officers, local law enforcement, social services, bus drivers, food service staff, custodians and maintenance teams to get our kids across that stage, safely, nourished, with a clean, secure roof over their heads. It takes our career and technical programs, volunteers, nurses, coaches, counselors, therapists, psychologists, aides, assistants, special education staff to care for and guide these soon-to-be adults into the next phase of life.

Principles, assistant principals, School Board office staff and the School Board work hard to strategically guide our kids across that graduation stage equipped with the tools they will need to succeed at whatever lies ahead.

And without a doubt, it takes our teachers. The degreed, professional, life-long career educators charged with the monumental task of helping our kids navigate the academic and social experiences of their youth who, not so long ago, were told to get down off their self-proclaimed pedestals and do more with less by decision makers who refuse to even walk the halls of our amazingly diverse schools to bear witness to the challenges – big and small – of ensuring quality public education in a rural community.

It is in the face of that kind of adversity yet surrounded by the love and commitment of a community steeped in kindness and support that the magnitude of just how many people it takes to get our kids across that stage took my breath away as the caps swirled in the air.

It truly does take everyone working together with the same purpose: supporting our kids, which in turn, supports our quality of life in Shenandoah County. Our kids will grow up to be our store clerks, bank tellers, doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians, lawyers, accountants, farmers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, first responders, teachers, electricians, computer technicians, mechanics, welders, plant managers, engineers, ministers, business owners, little league, soccer and swim coaches, troop leaders, parents. The list of what’s to come is full of endless possibility thanks to our schools.

Our schools are the foundation of our community and our kids are the future of Shenandoah County, so it is with the greatest respect and sincerest appreciation to all our graduates, past, present and future, and the amazing community that has helped them cross that graduation stage that I say thank you and congratulations!

Katie Freakley is a Shenandoah County School Board member from District 4.