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Before starting this month's column, I went back and reviewed previous efforts and realized that I had a theme going. Each one focused on how thankful I am to be part of this wonderful district. So this year I'm taking a different approach. This year I'm grateful.

There may not seem to be a big difference between thankful and grateful, but there is. Technically the words are synonyms. I disagree. Thankful implies that someone has given you something and you're expected to thank them. One of our first expectations as children is to remember to say thank you when given something. Gratitude, on the other hand, implies something that's been done for others that you appreciate. Gratitude requires empathy.

This year I'm grateful. I've seen so many instances of our schools reaching out to support members of our local and global communities that I want to share my gratitude with you. In buildings across the district, students, faculty, staff and administrators are actively seeking ways to connect with and support those in need. This search isn't driven by a grade or curriculum, but by empathy. And for this I'm grateful.

To honor every project, program and initiative members of our school community are involved in would require more space than is available. There's just too many. R.E. Baker Elementary started a program to give back to families in their building years ago. This program has spread throughout the district. Old High Middle School's give-back program delivered groceries to 30 families at the school so they had food over Thanksgiving break. They're planning to do the same over Christmas. That's something to be grateful for.

Bentonville High School clubs regularly make an impact locally and globally. Community Help Club works to address food insecurity through donations to the Snack Pack program. The Student Library Advisory Board collected books to support literacy activities among our most economically vulnerable families. Arkansas Children's Hospital Club brightened the day of children receiving treatment at the hospital by delivering donated coloring books and crayons, and Red Friday Club and French Club is supporting the Veterans Hospital and Northwest Arkansas Women's Shelter.

Our Spanish Club sold bracelets created by children in Nicaragua and sent the proceeds back to address food insecurity and other effects of extreme poverty on Nicaraguan children. Students at BHS also supported UNICEF and raised money for the United Nation's children's Emergency Fund. I am grateful for these acts of compassion.

Clubs are not the only groups at BHS to support causes in the community. The award-winning Bentonville Pride Marching Band recently asked for a nonperishable food donation from patrons who attended their encore performance -- they collected 1,400 pounds of food. Earlier in the year, Bentonville School Choral groups asked for donations to support Bright Futures Snack Pack program -- they received enough items to support the program through December.

I'm grateful for acts of compassion in elementary, middle and junior high schools. Willowbrook Elementary third-graders, with support from other grade levels, developed a project to raise money for the Water Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing sustainable clean water sources. The cool thing about this project is that it involved collaboration between teachers and students across grade levels and is driven by student inquiry and passion. It also involved the community in raising awareness and money to affect change and will have a lasting impact on not only the community but all the kids involved. It's difficult to express the level of gratitude I feel for their efforts.

And this isn't an isolated case. Students across the district are stepping up to a challenge by creating a project to support a cause. At Fulbright Junior High, a group of students identified a problem and set to work to solve it. They recognized that there were more kids who wanted to play an instrument than instruments to play, so they set up a fundraiser online to collect money to fund the purchase of quality instruments. I am grateful for their response to a need in their community.

On Veterans Day, every building honored heroes in our community with heartfelt celebrations of their service. Old High Middle School's seventh annual concert was an especially moving tribute. I wish I had space to share all the compliments I've received about similar celebrations at Washington and Fulbright junior highs and Central Park Elementary.

It's been my pleasure to work with two district families, the Mackey and Maxwell families, to help promote and raise money for causes that are close to their hearts. Both families are excellent examples of turning a challenge into an opportunity to affect the lives of so many people. I'm grateful for their strength and commitment to finding cures and raising awareness for Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and Crohn's Disease.

As I ate a fantastic turkey lunch at Tennie Russell Primary School last Tuesday, I realized that every building in our district has a story of service and support for our community. These are just a few of their stories, and I'm positive that it's only a small fraction of the great things happening throughout the district.

I found out last week that we earned additional funding from the Arkansas School Recognition and Reward Program again this year. I'm grateful for the recognition and reward that we can use to augment our already strong academic programs.

I'm equally, if not more, grateful for the commitment of our students, faculty, staff and administrators to improve the world, even if it's only our little piece of it. Our students are so much more than a test score, our schools are far greater than the sum of their parts.


NW News on 11/28/2014

Print Headline: A Year To Be Grateful

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