12/28/09 — Letters to GHS

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Letters to GHS

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 28, 2009 1:46 PM

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Fremont STARS Elementary School fifth-grade students, from left, Carl Jackson, 10, Logan Scott, 11, and Hunter Tillman, 10, write letters of encouragement to the students at Goldsboro High School with one of the fifth-grade teachers, Tammy Wallace, a 1992 graduate of GHS.

It has been years since Fremont STARS Elementary School teacher Tammy Wallace walked the halls of Goldsboro High School as a student.

But that doesn't mean she has forgotten what it was like to hear what others said about her school.

So when the 1992 graduate started hearing comments again -- about graduation rates and discipline problems -- she was reminded of the impact the negative words can have on teenagers.

"It hit home with me as a graduate," she said. "The stigma has not gotten better."

So, she decided to share her thoughts with the 31 students in her Fremont STARS fifth-grade class -- and to ask them what advice and messages they would give to the students at Goldsboro High.

"I taught some of them in third grade, moved with them to fourth grade and now fifth grade," she said. "I know what kinds of character they have. They're caring kids."

Ms. Wallace was not surprised when the youngsters welcomed the chance to reach out to the young men and women at Goldsboro High -- especially those who have already chosen the right path.

"I explained to the kids -- what would make you feel good if you were one of these students, if people were saying things about you but you knew better, you knew you weren't going to quit school, you knew that you weren't going to fail?" Ms. Wallace said. "They were absolutely receptive."

The idea was not just to give the students the chance to exercise their writing skills, a goal of the school's curriculum, but also to show them that they can make a difference in the life of someone else.

Her idea spread, and all fifth-graders at the school were encouraged to put pencil to paper and write letters to the high schoolers.

Sarah Edmondson wrote that she understood that it isn't easy being a student.

"I know you guys are having a hard time. School is like a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. I hope you guys stay in school and get good grades and go very high on the roller coaster," she said.

Lexie Edmundson, a student in another class, wrote that she just wanted the GHS students to know that others cared.

"Fremont STARS believes in you and knows that you can get a good education and graduate high school," she wrote. "Keep on trying and think in your mind, 'I know that I can graduate high school, and I can do anything that I put my mind to.'"

Stormy Horne suggested students stay focused on what they know to be true, rather than paying any attention to what others say about them.

"Just believe .. that you are a smart talented student. I believe that you can get good grades and do good in school. So try your best and never give up," she wrote.

Caroline Pate passed along words of wisdom she had acquired from her mother.

"What my mom always told me and still does (is) when someone makes fun of you, it is just jealousy," she wrote. "You just need to believe in yourself and no matter what anybody on the face of the earth says, do the very best you can and always try your best."

Max Hook issued a challenge to the high school students -- to graduate and to go to a good college.

In the meantime, he pledged to take on the role of cheerleader.

"I'm going to tell everybody about donating to your school Goldsboro High School," he wrote. "I'm sorry to hear that nobody wants to support your school. I'm going to do everything I can do to support your school."

A large folder of letters was sent through interschool mail to Barbara Wilkins, graduation coach at GHS, before the holiday break.

"I did not expect them, I was shocked," Mrs. Wilkins said. "The writing that these kids have done is phenomenal. There's no two letters alike. That school has obviously worked hard to teach them how to write letters."

She said she immediately shared the gift with staff and several students, and plans to continue spreading the message after students return.

"I want to go into some of the classrooms that I have not been in, just pass these around, give them a few minutes to read them, actually let them touch them and have some time with the letters," she said.

The encouraging words will undoubtedly raise the spirits of the high school students, Mrs. Wilkins said. And hopefully it has also made a difference in the letter-writers' perception of the school.

"To me, these kids when they heard Goldsboro High School and somebody's trying to put them down, they're not going to have the mindset that they're bad," she said. "Hopefully, they're going to speak up now and say something."