For the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to substitute teach at Coffee County Central High School on a regular basis. As a substitute, I’ve been in a vast array of classrooms and have taught hundreds of students. One thing remains the same, poor students, no matter how bright, are at risk for failure when they don’t have the necessary supplies for class.
It’s not that they don’t want to do the work, but if they can’t put pencil to paper, how can they? And understandably, these students hate it when others become aware that they are once again, unprepared for class. Often times, disadvantaged youth try to laugh off their “forgetfulness” or even assume the identity of one who doesn’t care about school just to deflect other students from knowing the truth about their situation. The high school environment can be challenging enough without drawing unwanted attention to the fact that you’re different, you’re poor. Many of these students come from very hard working families, but unfortunately, the dollar doesn’t buy much anymore. Things most people take for granted are just wishes for others. How awesome it would be to come to school in new clothes, with a new haircut or even better, with teeth that look straight and clean when you smile. And even if you have none of those things, how would you feel admitting that school supplies are at the bottom of the family shopping list because it’s a struggle just to put food on the table and gas in the car? And backpacks – those are expensive luxuries. Students weighed down carrying big, bulky books through the halls are worn out by the time they get to their next class, possibly located at the far end of the school. Ask these students what a good backpack would mean to them. And, if you own more than one pair of shoes then you’re one of the fortunate ones. I’ve seen students come to school with shoes held together with Duct Tape or holes so big I wondered how their feet kept from getting hurt. The CHS General Store (where students can get free school supplies, shoes and clothing as long as it’s available) has been a very valuable resource for these students but the demand has grown greater than the supply. Though the school does an excellent job of keeping confidential which students have taken advantage of
the General Store, some don’t want to risk the possibility of others finding out how needy they really are. I pray all these students would trust in the words of their principal, Dr. Joey Vaughn as he was quoted in last week’s article, “Inaugural Teen Expo seeking donations” saying, “There is nothing wrong with needing help – there is something wrong with not letting anyone know.” Dr. Vaughn desperately wants to provide help for all his students in need. Imagine being the principal and knowing that 300 of your students face the challenges of poverty every day before they take their first step into your school. Or the teacher who gives their all trying to help each student be successful knowing that many have disadvantages they must first overcome. It is heartbreaking, but not hopeless. CHS will hold its inaugural Teen Expo event August 1 to help these students. Each of us has an opportunity to make a difference in their lives by either making a financial contribution or by donating items from the Teen Expo wish list to the high school. No contribution is too small and each gift will be a blessing. Together, we can demonstrate that our community supports each other when we fall on hard times. And then someday, when they become the best they can be, they will in turn help those less fortunate. To make financial contributions, please make checks out to Coffee County Central High School and on the memorandum line write Teen Expo and mail to CCCHS, 100 Red Raider Dr., Manchester, TN. 37355. For more information, please call Teen Expo coordinators, Taylor Rayfield at 723-5159 or June Fann at 723-3309.