Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

May 12, 2014

TIDBITS: Scholars and citizens

CROSSVILLE — This week, Cumberland County Schools will send another class of students out into the world as The Phoenix School, Stone Memorial High School and Cumberland County High School all celebrate their graduations. In Friday's edition, we published the annual graduation keepsake edition, honoring all graduates for their hard work.

Some of those students earned special designations during their four years of high school. Students could graduate with honors and/or distinction. Students also had the opportunity to become Tennessee Scholars.

The Tennessee Scholars program isn't that new of a program, at least not to these students. The Class of 2014 is the second high school class to go through four years with the program in place that not only encourages students to strive for academic success, but to build important workforce skills, like dependability and good behavior. It also requires students complete 80 hours of service to their communities.

Volunteerism is not a new concept to our young people, or to our community as a whole. Our many non-profit organizations sing the praises or our residents and their willingness to give of their time and talents to help others. These volunteers make it possible for struggling young readers in our schools to get one-on-one time with a volunteer. These volunteers help provide safe, affordable housing in our community through programs like Cumberland County Habitat for Humanity, Creative Compassion and the Self-Help Homeownership program of the Crossville Housing Authority. Volunteers provide a welcoming smile to loved ones visiting an ill relative in the hospital, stock the shelves at local food pantries and even protect our lives and our property through the volunteer Cumberland County Fire Department.

As a reporter covering the Cumberland County Board of Education, I've heard many times that the mission of the Cumberland County School System is to provide our young people with the skills they need to be a productive citizen. While reading, writing and arithmetic are certainly important to being a productive citizen, certainly learning the importance of thinking of others is in the top five most important skills our students need.

And while volunteering is good for the community, it's good for you, too. To our soon-to-be graduates, don't underestimate the value of the time you spend in service to others. Volunteering is a key to happiness and is important for a healthy mind and body. It also helps build skills that can be useful in your career and can help you meet people and network.

It's also a lot of fun and can provide you with opportunities you never would have had otherwise.

Just a few weeks ago, I took part in the fourth Habitat for Humanity Women Build. It was my third time volunteering for the event that has women building a home for a family. Thanks to that experience, I can now say I have framed a house, thanks to the teamwork of a group of women determined to see the walls of that home go up before we went home for the day. There is a feeling of pride, determination and down-right satisfaction that washes over you as you all lift that wall into place. It's empowering.

A few months later, when the dedication is held and the family moves into the house to make it a home, the feeling goes beyond empowering to a feeling of hope for that family's future, awe at the thought of everyone who worked together to make that dream come true, and thankfulness for having played even a small part.

The young people of this community know feelings such as this. I see them at many events and activities throughout the year, lending a hand and helping others. It's always encouraging to me when I see them out making a difference in our world, whether it be through organized efforts of schools or churches to just someone seeing a need and doing what they can to help.

Graduates, I hope you all continue to be active in this community and wherever you may roam. Sure, it can be hard to juggle volunteer efforts with the commitments of work, school, social life and family, but try to make time to stay involved. From new friends to new skills to new opportunities, you never know how your good deed can impact you forever.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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