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Saturday, May 25, 2013
My great-grandmother had only a few years of a one-room schoolhouse education. She smoked a clay pipe and had an outhouse in her back yard. I always like to remind my kids of this when they get too big for their britches. We come from down-to-earth, hard-working stock and, for that, I’ll always be thankful and proud.
I think it could be said that her great-great-grandson, Nathaniel Hancock, appreciated every single aspect that Franklin County and its schools had to offer. He took every opportunity to participate. He managed baseball teams and captained academic teams to victory. He competed in chess and track and led in the Accelerated Reader program five years in a row. He attended governor’s school and helped to organize a tutoring program in higher math. He was a lector at church and delivered firewood for the needy. He fished in Franklin County’s streams, and hiked and hunted in its woods.
That is my son. Math and mud are two of his favorite things. He graduated with three varsity letters and an academic ré sumé full of honors he never would have earned if he hadn’t been given the opportunity to shine.
Nathaniel received a full academic scholarship to East Tennessee State University, where he is on the dean’s list as a University Honors Scholar. He continues to use all the lessons that Franklin County and Franklin County schools taught him. He studies. He runs. He strives. His dream is to become a wildlife biologist, and you know what? I think he’s going to get there. And we will always give great credit to Franklin County and its schools.
There are so many kids in Franklin County just like Nathaniel, who are ready and willing and eager to be all that they can be. It’s a tough world. Things get tighter and competition gets greater. Nathaniel is surrounded by honors students who came from all over the world. The best programs want the best students and, believe me, the best students are out there looking for them and vying for a spot. Nobody in Franklin County wants our native sons and daughters to be the ones who don’t make the cut because the schools had to cut all the vital things that students put on applications because of poor spending practices and shrinking budgets.
This spring, Nathaniel was chosen by the Student Conservation Association to attend an alternative spring break removing invasive species of plants in the Santa Monica Mountains of California. One hundred and twenty students were chosen from the entire United States to participate. That’s right. A Franklin County alum was chosen. He worked side by side with students from some of the top colleges in the country.
This summer, Nathaniel was chosen for a National Science Foundation program involving arachnid research. He was the only freshman chosen for the fellowship, and because of his age, he had to undergo a rigorous interview process to prove he had the chops.
He did that. But we did that too. You and I and all the amazing teachers and coaches and music instructors and art programs and gifted opportunities that Franklin County supported so that Nathaniel and every other student in our schools could thrive. There are future scientists, engineers, farmers, musicians, teachers, artists, mechanics, athletes, diplomats and leaders filling the classrooms of our schools. They aren’t waiting to happen. They’re working to happen every single day that you give them the chance.
I think my great-grandmother would have called it a shame to take away anything that encouraged the dedicated application of elbow grease. Please continue to give the students of Franklin County the opportunities to be all that they can so that they won’t be left behind in this competitive world.
We want our struggling kids to learn how to read, and we want our gifted kids not to be held back behind the kids from other counties and other countries. We want our athletes to be able to compete, and we want our band students to be able to perform. Success can be defined in many different ways by many different people, but I think we can all agree that success is doing your best, and many students in Franklin County face a future of being held back from doing their best. That cannot be allowed to happen.
I urge the school board to use the extra money the board of supervisors has approved wisely and well. Because our students deserve to shine. Saying that they will be fine no matter what is taken from them is like saying my great-grandmother could have achieved a PhD. Sure, she had the grit, but she didn’t have the opportunities. Every generation has added to those opportunities. Do not go down in history as the school board that took us backward.