South-Western Subject Matter: Students, staff have been ‘paying it forward’ all year​​​​​​​

Robert Ragland Sr.
South-Western City School District

We’ve all heard that “it takes a village to raise a child.” and our students, staff, schools and school district have certainly experienced the caring and support from our community.

From school-supply donations to clothing donations and partnerships with local businesses and churches -- and partnerships with statewide and national organizations -- our students and schools have been the recipients of many services, support and much-needed items during 2020. We’ve been the recipients of so much generosity from our community this year that our hearts are overflowing with gratitude.

Robert Ragland Sr.

Where does all of this generosity come from? If it takes a village to raise a child, those children grow up to become part of the village -- that caring, kind and giving village. If you follow the district on social media, you will have seen the hashtag #SWCSDgivesback many times. Our students and staff members are blessed to feel what it means to be part of a greater community and practice the act of “Paying It Forward” throughout the school year. This is particularly noticeable in the fall and winter months.

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Although Kindness Day and Week are officially in February, our students and schools started their “Be the ‘I’ in Kindness” at the start of this school year and are practicing being kind always. Random acts of kindness are sometimes as simple as smiling at another person or finding a compliment to share with everyone you encounter during the day. They’re so easy to do and put a smile on someone’s face who may be having a hard time. Our students and staff members truly do put the “I” in kindness every day for someone.

The power of community and giving back can always be seen at the holidays, but this year in particular, our schools have found creative ways to give back due to pandemic limitations. Our high school bands are sharing the joy of music online through virtual concerts, marching band performances and even participation in a virtual parade or two. While online might not have been the venue of choice, it has provided more people with the opportunity to enjoy and marvel at the talents of our students on a wider scale. 

Student clubs have provided handmade uplifting cards and blankets for residents of local skilled-nursing facilities. Athletics teams have helped move furniture and bail water out of residents' flooded basements during some of our bigger storms. The smiles of appreciation on the residents’ faces also provide a sense of community and the joy of making someone else’s life a bit more joyful to our students. 

Our schools have found creative ways to continue to sponsor their annual canned-food drives -- some via drive-thru donation drop-offs. Mitigating food insecurity has long been a holiday tradition in our community through various community programs and local food banks. Each year, our staff members and PTAs adopt families to provide gifts, warm clothes and food baskets for the holidays. While the lists and number of “Angel/Giving Trees” have grown this year, so has the giving. 

These are just a few examples of the sense of community in our schools. No matter what the physical change to any aspect of life may be, we always know that where there’s a will, there’s a way to do most everything, and the creativity and innovation of our students, staff and community are bountiful. We really are #InThisTogether.

Happy holidays!

Robert Ragland Sr. is the South-Western City School District board president.