GRAFTON—Grafton High School (GHS) was the site of celebration, as West Virginia Governor Jim Justice paid the students and staff a visit to present a special award.
When COVID-19 struck, schools were hit hard and were forced to undergo special procedures and precautions to ensure that the future leaders and workers claimed an education.
For a while, learning institutions were closed, forcing youths to learn virtually, and once their doors reopened and students returned to the classroom, they had to mask up and be sure to follow social distancing protocols.
“So many times, when we think about what we’ve been through 18 months with this terrible pandemic, it’s been tough,” voiced Justice. “You’re wearing a mask every day, tough. You know a lot of people who have gotten sick, tough. And maybe you’ve known some who have passed away, really tough.”
But in true Grafton Bearcat fashion, school officials and students did their part to assist in ways to return to as normal of a school year as possible. And one area that the high school has excelled at in their mission has been noticed on a state level.
On Friday morning, Justice, along with his English Bulldog, Babydog, made his way to GHS, one of the highest-vaccinated schools in the state, to present Principal Lori Shumaker a check for $50,000 as winners in the West Virginia Department of Education’s I Got Vaxxed Competition.
“You have done something that is remarkable, really remarkable, if you think about it,” Justice expressed. “We started this competition, and 77 schools felt like they won, but I’m here to tell you today that you won, and I am going to present you with this check. Congratulations Grafton High School! Way to go, way to go, way to go Grafton High School!”
Shumaker revealed that the $50,000 would be used to help provide experiences for the students, something that they missed out on during the last two years of the pandemic.
“We know it has been a hard couple of years, and with this money, we are going to travel. I am going to take you places that we haven’t been able to go,” she shared with the student body. “We are going to get you guys some experiences, because you have lost two years of experiences.”
Potential examples include Washington, D.C., with a visit to the inner Harbor in Baltimore, or Pittsburgh to attend a play and have dinner in restaurants that offer cuisines not available locally.
“I’m really excited for our students,” Shumaker asserted. “The reality is that the last couple years it’s been difficult because we have had to eliminate a lot of field trips and a lot of experiences and opportunities for them, so the fact that our community, our health department, our board of education and our parents have worked hard to get a large amount of our students vaccinated is just amazing.”
She said that she was ecstatic for the $50,000 that is to be used just for students for what the school thinks is best for them because it is something that simply just doesn’t happen all the time.
“We need to take a moment to thank our Taylor County Board of Education and the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department for their efforts throughout this whole pandemic,” Shumaker said. “They have worked very hard with the school to hold the clinics we have had, so they deserve recognition for that!”
“I also want to give a really big thank you to Shannon Mayle, our school nurse. She worked so hard to not just get this data for me in order for us to do the application but every day every day, keeping track of who is positive, who needs to be quarantined, who needs extra support while they’re out of school,” she added. “I said she’s the hardest working school nurse in the state of West Virginia, and I stand by that statement she is fantastic!”
During the presentation, Justice also recognized Caleb Stewart, a freshman at GHS, who was the winner of a scholarship during round two of the Do it For Babydog Sweepstakes. The scholarship, valued at $100,000, will be used at any higher learning institution of Stewart’s choosing.
Not only was Governor Justice welcomed with the playing of the GHS fight song and applause from the students and staff, but he was treated to a beautiful A Capella rendition of “My Home Among the Hills” by the Entertainers.
And before departing for the day, Justice left the students and staff with an important message that could change the outcome of the future.
“This little Babydog, she makes you smile, and she loves everybody. If that isn’t a message for all of us, who are going through tough stuff, if we can come out with a smile and love one another, we will go a long way in life.”