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Opinion

The Brownsville States-Graphic

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Off the Beaten Path with Jerry Wilson

Missed opportunities I hear a lot of stories about people who reach their senior years only to realize there are things they never had the opportunity to achieve. A lot of folks look for ways to achieve those dreams during their senior years. There was a story recently of an elderly lady who was approaching her 88th birthday. Her birthday wish was to drive a car up to the speed of 88 miles per hour, a lap for each year. If a person has a hankering to burn up the highways, there are opportunities. She learned that NASCAR had a program for such people who can take classes and get behind the wheel and actually make a run for it on an official speedway. She contacted the powers that be and enrolled in the program. She successfully completed the classes and thanks to NASCAR, the lady in this story got her birthday wish. The story goes that she completed the six laps reaching speeds up to and surpassing 88 mph. There’s also this thing about former president, the senior George Bush, who had a thing about jumping out of an airplane at the age of 80 and 90. I’ve lived this long

and have never left the ground in an airplane. I’m still horrified of flying and have no intention of leaving the ground. Therefore, there will be no need to entertain the thought of jumping from a plane. There are a number of stories similar to these that happen every day. I must admit that I have no desire to get on a NASCAR speedway and race around the track at high speeds. Living dangerously never really entered my mind. At this point in my life, I have been blessed with professions either part time or full time that have brought much satisfaction into my life regarding the desire for adventure. I have become more concerned about the missed opportunities in my life. There were those times when I didn’t go all the way with some of the things far more valuable regarding satisfaction and contentment in real life situations. Sometimes these actions resulted in undesirable distractions. Some of these distractions were the result of my own choosing that resulted in making wrong decisions... There are just too many to mention but perhaps

my greatest missed opportunity resulted from taking for granted those who loved me the most. I now can recall too clearly the times when I really believe that I could have taken more time off and spent that time with the family. There are many along with me who possibly have similar feelings. I recall an interview that Larry King conducted with Dr. Billy Graham. He asked Dr. Graham if he had any regrets over his many years in the ministry. Dr. Graham paused only a moment before answering the question and explained to Larry King that there was one. Dr. Graham said that he regretted not spending more time with his wife, Ruth, and the Graham children, especially during their formative years. I was told many times by superiors to take more time off. “Spend it with your family,” they would say. However, like many I thought too highly of myself and felt that the entire world was on my shoulders. But, O how wrong I was. While some missed opportunities are impossible to regain, it’s not too late to change our course.

Attitude is everything I know you have all heard the saying “attitude is everything,” and some of you may have even used the phrase a few times. I mention the phrase because I am learning more and more lately that the phrase holds true. I am also learning that sometimes it’s not your attitude that makes the difference, but somebody else’s. For example, there is a lady that works at Eastside Elementary School whose attitude can make the most hectic mornings seem a little nicer. I don’t know her name, but I wish I did! I have asked my daughter, but she says she isn’t sure. Sarah always gives her a hug in the mornings, and tells me all of the time, “Mommy, there’s that lady who is so nice to me in the mornings.” Sarah has had a few mornings where she is dragging, but she always perks up when we pull into the drive at school and she is standing there at the end of the awning. She always smiles and waves as she yells, “great day, mom!” If I was ever unsure as to whether or not a smile was contagious, I’m not anymore! I don’t know your name, but I still want to say “Thank You!!” for brightening up the mornings with your always positive attitude!

Haywood County Schools and Eastside Intermediate are lucky to have you! (And so are we!) I have to say the same thing about Mr. Charles and Miss Sylvia at Anderson. Jacob has always been a “mommy’s boy.” Sarah has never been one to cry when I dropped her off at school or daycare. Jacob has been my “mommy please don’t go with big tears in his eyes” kid. Last year when he was in preschool he cried every morning for about two weeks. I hoped and prayed that when he started kindergarten this fall that he would be over his crying stage. I was wrong! The first day was ok because Chuck and I stayed with him. The next time he had to go back was a different story. He hates walking all the way down to the gym in the mornings, and that was part of the problem. The other part of the problem was the whole “please stay with me, mommy” thing. As much as it broke my heart to do it, I had to walk away and leave him there crying. I was convinced it would only happen a couple of times. WRONG! After about a week, we pulled up and Mr. Charles happened to

be standing at the edge of the awning helping kids out of their cars. As we walked up, he took the time to kneel down and give Jacob a highfive and ask him how he was doing. I’m not sure why, but it seemed to give Jacob a little extra confidence. He walked in school and didn’t cry. I was impressed. I thought the crying spell was over. Again, I was wrong. A couple of days later, he cried again, but only once. When we got home that evening I asked him why he was crying in the mornings. His answer melted my heart. He said, “Because I miss you when I’m at school, mommy.” So, I explained to him that mommy would always be there after school was over, and he said he understood. The next day he cried. The day after that there wasn’t even a pouty face. So I thought my talk worked. Wrong again! He explained to me that afternoon how cool Miss Sylvia was, and how much he loved the “tree” in the library center. Since then, not one single tear! So, in my opinion, Haywood County Schools rock! Thank you Mr. Charles, Miss Sylvia, and the lady at Eastside for making my childrens mornings a little easier!

Peeples

By 28th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge

A Gift of Education (Part II) Last week I told part of the remarkable story of Rosenwald AfricianAmerican Schools in the American South. Booker T. Washington dreamed them up, but it was a wealthy Northern businessman, Julius Rosenwald, who made building them possible by creating a fund that awarded enough grants to build 4,977 of them across 15 Southern states. The plans for these schools were so progressive, and so superior to other plans being used at the time, that although designed primarily for AfricanAmerican schools, more than 15,000 white schools were built according to them as well. But the Fund didn’t just hand out money. Before the monies would be made available to communities, local school boards had to agree to use local funds to operate and maintain the schools after they were built, and local school boards had to agree to fund them for an academic year of at least five continuous months, and in hundreds and hundreds of communities, they did. Five months doesn’t sound like much now, but at the time, the average school term for both African-American and white schools across the Southern states was less than a hundred days. Only three-fifths of the children in the South were enrolled in school at all, and significant numbers of those enrolled did not attend on a regular basis. Additional grants from the Fund provided monies for low-cost libraries for the schools and buses to transport faraway students to school, but first, local communities had to raise the seed money. Typical of the way the process played out was how it unfolded in Trenton, where an agent of the Rosenwald Fund first met with a group of interested citizens in a church to discuss building a school. He told them how much money they would have to raise and how much land they would have to acquire in order to get matching funds. Someone had already donated the land, and the citizens pledged to raise $500 to match the Rosenwald funds. They then went to the mayor of Trenton to get his pledge that the city would maintain the school after completion. He agreed to do so if they, the AfricanAmerican parents, would dig the basement and

grade the property. They agreed, and soon the school became a reality. Keep in mind that $500 was a much larger sum then, and that rural people of both races were much more destitute than today. Raising money was extremely difficult everywhere, but school backers came up with all sorts of innovative ways to do so. In one town, women went door to door asking for donations of a chicken. Then they held a chicken fair, selling the chickens and donating the proceeds to the school fund. Other communities held dinners, penny drives and picnics to raise money. Farm women donated eggs to the cause. Some farmers pledged proceeds from an acre of cotton. Others donated chickens or a hog to sell. Still others donated land upon which to build the schools. One heroic man, a former slave, donated his entire live savings, $38.00, to the local school board fund, saying that he wanted to see “the children of my grandchildren have a chance.” Those who had nothing else to give, gave their labor. The schools were truly community projects, and it should also be stated that white citizens donated substantial monies raised as well. And every year, from the program’s beginning until the last nail was hammered home on the last Rosenwald School, built in 1932, more and more African-American children in the rural South were able to attend school in safe, purposebuilt, Rosenwald school buildings . When the program ended, there were 663,615 children in 15 states enrolled in

Rosenwald schools, 4977 of them in all, 373 of which were in Tennessee, three in Haywood County, eight in Crockett and 13 in Gibson, one of which still bears Rosenwald's name. By 1930, at least one out of every three African-American school children in the South were enrolled in Rosenwald Schools. During their day, these schools resulted in significantly higher school attendance, literacy rates, years of schooling and cognitive tests scores. Furthermore, removable blackboards and sliding partitions in some rooms, an almost universal feature in Rosenwald schools, created a safe, clean space for public meetings and community functions. Understandably, these schools became sources of enormous pride among African-Americans, who saw them not only as the way up for the next generation, but also as tangible monuments to their struggle for decent educations for their children. As I said last week, most people know very little about this group of schools that educated hundreds of thousands of black children and are such an important part of our history, but their story is remarkable and inspiring, one of the most successful school building projects in American history. All made possible because of the vision of one man and the generosity of another, both of their stories uniquely American. Stories, in this case, that helped shape the America we inhabit today and made it a better place. We should tell them as often as we can.

Brownsville

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