AHS was part of foundation for success

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Monday night, I was honored to be able to attend the 16th Annual Andalusia High School Academic Banquet. As a graduate of AHS, it is always an honor to return and be a part of something that helped build the foundation of the person I am today.

At this banquet, Lauren Pebworth was named Salutatorian, and Keri Till was named Valedictorian. In coming issues, you'll learn more about these two outstanding young ladies, and what the future holds for them. But, for all intensive purposes, I don't think we have to worry too much about what lies ahead for them, or any of the graduates of Andalusia High School.

As Superintendent Pete Kelley (who was assistant principal during my tenure at AHS) said, "Andalusia High School graduates go on to become doctors, lawyers and educators." They also go on to become newspaper editors, but I let that one slide. He continued that routinely, AHS graduates are awarded millions of dollars in scholarships annually, and that at one point, there were more students enrolled in medical school at the University of Alabama - Birmingham, than any other high school in Alabama.

That says a lot right there. But, it doesn't paint the whole picture.

As Heath Henderson, a 1999 graduate of AHS spoke to the assembled students, I couldn't help but reflect back on 10 years earlier, when I was sitting in the same spot as those students, hearing LaDonna Hutcherson speak to the assembled group of honor students about setting goals and achieving them.

It took me back. I was a nervous senior, about to enter college, and lay down the path that I would follow for the next 20 to 30 years, wondering if the decisions I would make would be fruitful or just die on the vine. LaDonna challenged us to set high goals for ourselves, and strive hard to reach them. She told us to never let obstacles get in our way, to find out ways to get around them, or make them work for us.

I took that advice to heart, and to this day continue to use that as part of my creed

some things that get in your way are just there to be moved. And, you're never really lost, just temporarily misplaced.

After Heath gave the students a talk about six essential qualities of leadership, I couldn't help but think, he's right. Discipline, vision, courage, patience, friendship and wisdom - those are six appropriate qualities to be a leader, but being a leader requires one other thing.

A good quality education. An education from Andalusia High School provides that.

When I graduated from high school and entered college, I was prepared. I was prepared because my teachers at AHS made sure of that. They took an interest in what I was doing in high school, and then, they were always available to offer a little advice if I needed it during my college years.

I actually felt like I had two years of college under my belt at graduation and upon entering college. There were other students, however, that were not prepared, and it was evident as they struggled through the basic things I had learned as a freshman.

For that, I am eternally grateful.

But now, economic conditions aren't favorable for our schools, and AHS is no exception. The city school systems stands to lose several teachers and support personnel due to lack of funding.

It shouldn't be that way. It's time that the citizens in Andalusia realize what treasure they have, and figure out a way to help fund more teachers locally. We can't rely on the state to keep funding all of our teachers. We've seen in the past where that simply doesn't work. Local funding has become a necessity, and like it or not, we don't fund enough teachers locally.

If we want the education system here to be maintained, we must take action. I don't know what that specific action might be, but I'm willing to work with leaders and education-minded individuals in Andalusia to figure out a solution.

I want my niece and nephew, and my future children to have the same opportunities I did. And those opportunities began with the education I received at AHS.