PRUNTYTOWN— Taylor County Middle School (TCMS) recently celebrated student resiliency by recognizing the winners of a volunteer essay.
All students were encouraged by TCMS counselor Jerry Dooley, to write an argumentative essay explaining resources they used to maximize their learning through the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the essays students discussed challenges and talked about how they overcame and persevered through a most unconventional school year, to not only learn but to excel while doing so.
And on Friday, the winners of said contest were acknowledged, treated to a reception and presented with weekend getaways for their entire families.
The winning students, Anna Poling, Paisley Webber and Alexa Swyck were joined by their families, school administration, teachers, members of the Taylor County Board of Education (BOE) and Director of Curriculum Linda Casto to celebrate their achievements.
Dooley explained the challenge to those in attendance and noted that each essay was assigned a number and given to the school’s librarian Lynn Conti, to read and blindly select the finalists.
“When I read all of the essays I was struck with how aware our students were of the scarifies their families made. I knew some students had trouble connecting to the intent for remote and virtual work, but this project really opened my eyes to how many didn’t have any access at all without mom or dad taking them to work or a hot spot just to complete their work,” she elaborated. “These students were very aware of the changes within their families. They felt the stress.”
Conti went on to say that each piece had a common thread of caring relationship between students and those who supported them during this trying time, and that she is overwhelmingly proud of the students saying, “They didn’t stop, and they’ve emerged stronger for it.”
Once Conti had read all of the submitted essays, she narrowed it down to just eight contenders. Those finalists were then sent to previous Taylor County educator, who now teaches in Kanawha County, Emily Green, for final judging.
Green also examined each essay blindly and selected the top three winner.
“We didn’t look at grades or anything like that,” Dooley shared. “We wanted this to be all about merit and hard work.”
BOE member Melissa Garvin addressed the three young ladies saying, “In a year that has been so a-typical, you have gone above and beyond to succeed. And I also thank you parents for affording them with the opportunity to be able to do so.”
To award the winners, Dooley wanted to offer a break from everyday worries and a chance to relax and forget about COVID, while enjoying the natural beauty of the state.
For the project, TCMS partnered with Capon Springs and Farms, West Virginia State Parks and Alpine Lake Resort to provide just that.
Jonathan Bellingham of Capon Springs and Farms joined the ceremony virtually to congratulate all of the winners and present a weekend getaway to Webber and her family.
“When Mr. Dooley first approached me about this project, I was a little unsure, as we had never done anything like this before, but I became inspired by his goals and objectives. We have been working to turn our attention to education more, and this was a great opportunity to do that,” he said.
Bellingham also provided a video of the resort showcasing the serenity of staying with Capon.
Jacob Jackson was in attendance as well, on behalf of WV State Parks and presented Alexa Swyck, who was also celebrating her 13th birthday, with a two-night stay in a two bedroom cabin at North Bend State Park, and Anna Poling was presented with a weekday room rental, a round of mini golf and on hour of kayaking for four from Casto, who awarded the prize on behalf of Alpine Lake Resort.
“We all know how difficult of a year this has been for student learning, but we have students at TCMS who used everything at their disposal to do their best,” expressed Dooley. “It was trying year with a new way of teaching and learning. In the end, we survived and grew stronger together.”
At the conclusion of the award presentation, the students and their families were invited into the TCMS library to enjoy light refreshments.
“I just want to thank our partners for helping us to foster student resiliency, and giving these families the opportunity to relax and make memories,” Dooley imparted.