By NEMS Daily Journal
This week brings an annual rite of spring in Tupelo, a celebration of the connection between the community and its public schools.
Two big community events underscore that connection in tangible ways.
The first is today’s recognition of Rotary Scholars. The Tupelo Rotary Club each year hosts the top 30 students in their class in grades 7-12 in the Tupelo Public School System.
The awards to middle and high school students serve multiple purposes. They’re an incentive for high academic achievement; the award is a personal goal for many students. Those who achieve Rotary Scholar status all six years they are eligible receive special recognition as an elite academic group.
But even more important, the awards signal to students that their community is behind them and supports them in their efforts. Each year, the Rotary Scholars luncheon is attended by hundreds of students, parents, grandparents and others – in addition to Rotary members – who represent the broad spectrum of interest and involvement that marks successful schools and communities.
On Thursday, another event that celebrates school-community connections will be at Pierce Street Elementary School, where the Association for Excellence in Education will hold its annual meeting. The meeting each year showcases the amazing creative work done by teachers in their classrooms with grants from AEE. The grants are designed to bring innovative instruction to Tupelo students through projects that would not be possible within the regular school budget.
AEE annually gives more than $100,000 in grants to Tupelo teachers. All of that money – well in excess of $2 million in the more than quarter-century history of the organization – is raised in private contributions from individuals and businesses. It takes on even greater importance in these perilous times of school budget cuts. The fund-raising aspect of AEE is a tangible expression of the sense of community ownership and engagement in the schools that has always been a distinctive Tupelo attribute. So, too, are the many volunteers who give their time to review the grant applications and decide which ones to award.
The annual meeting itself is an opportunity for AEE members and others to come together in common cause with teachers, administrators and, of course, students as a demonstration of community unity in pursuit of educational excellence.
Nothing is more important to a community’s success than a strong public school system with broad-based enrollment and support, accompanied by high expectations. Public events that highlight the public schools’ central role in community life, and the stake which all segments of the community have in their success, are indispensable in securing and maintaining that public engagement.
This week, Tupelo both celebrates and strengthens its ongoing educational heritage.