All In For Students by Dr. John Welmers

Let’s start with a quick story. I am flying back from San Diego on a Friday and I am seated on the six-hour flight next to a young woman and her infant child. We strike up a conversation in which she shares that she is returning to Charlotte to pick up her seven-year-old son, Ben. She explains that she had him when she was very young and that her mother, his grandmother, would have very little to do with him. She had talked her mom into keeping him for two months while she started a new job and hopefully, a new life in San Diego. To summarize a long conversation of several hours, she also met a new man with whom she had fallen in love and was now returning to pick up Ben with his new baby sister.
Obviously, these events had taken much more than two months to play out and over time, she had to beg her mom to continue to take care of her son. Her mom learned of the new baby and called to say that she had decided to turn Ben over to Social Services. She didn’t even know if her mom would be at the airport to pick her up or if she still had her son. I hurried off the plane when we got to Charlotte, since I only had a few minutes to catch my connecting flight. I tried to look around to see what happened, but I never saw her again.
So you ask, what does this story have to do with the start of a new school year, especially when we don’t even know how the story ends? It is true, I don’t know what happened to the young woman or her son, but I do know this. Somewhere that next Monday morning, Ben walked into a public school. Probably, the only chance he will have to experience structure, people who consistently care for him, and peers who recognize him for who he is and not what he has been through, exists in that school.
My goal in sharing this story is to demonstrate how public schools represent the single greatest hope many children have to make it in this world. We know that when our doors open, students of different names, social classes, and cultures will venture inside. Beyond church and family, no other group of professionals can provide the hope that we hold in our hands daily. You may argue that we should not have to provide this hope and maybe at another time that would be true, but not now. This is our time and we must share this hope with all our students, because to one degree or another, many have stories like Ben. Their issues may be brief or lifelong, caused by poverty or the possible inattention of wealth, or simply a reaction to the stress of our times. Their success may not be measured by test data or the homework they produce, but may instead be reflected by the enjoyment of a successful life.
As we open our schools, keep in mind that as educators, no matter what our position, no matter what grade we teach or support we offer, we continue to supply hope to many who have nowhere else to turn. Our schools lift spirits and motivate beyond dreams. We are here for those reasons and we are at our best when all of us working together, to provide our students with a solid education in a safe and nurturing environment.
We are New Hanover County Schools and we are all in for students.

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