“A Day On, Not Off”

This coming Monday is the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. Many state and federal employees have the day off; however, such is not the plan with a small, dedicated group of citizens and students. This past Friday, a group of citizens met with the school leaders and Clinton High and Clinton Middle Schools to discuss the opportunity for them (and you the readers of this article) to participate in the first annual Youth Empowerment Summit (YES) at Clinton High School…on the same day many people will take a day off. Students, parents, and community members are invited to a three-hour seminar (from 10:00 – 1:00 PM) at Clinton High School. The emphasis of the seminar is “Effective Communication with Law Enforcement and Conflict Resolution” and will be led by Rev. Curtis Johnson, pastor at Valley Brook Outreach Baptist Church. Special guests include leaders from our own Clinton Department of Public Safety, Presbyterian College, City of Clinton and Laurens County School District 56. In addition to the keynote by Rev. Johnson, small group discussions will occur soliciting our own students’ and parents’ viewpoints and ideas on how we can work more cooperatively with law enforcement and support strengthening effective conflict resolution strategies—at home, at school, in the workplace, and throughout the community. Door prizes and a free hot dog lunch will be available for guest and participants. We intend to reward the students who attend with a field trip to a “in-the-works” destination during a day when students will be in school. Things happen in interesting ways sometimes. The whole idea of the Youth Empowerment Symposium would never occurred had it not been for Bell Street. You see, this committee of citizens began meeting with me over a year ago to initially discuss how Bell Street was going to be used and maintained once it was no longer a middle school (hence its official name – the “Bell Street Concerned Citizens Committee”). But as we continued to meet we decided the committee could look at so much more than Bell Street, the building. We could become Bell Street, the action for growth and change. This committee has several key people—Alvenes Barksdale, Jeanne Burnside, Rev. Steven Evans, Councilwoman Shirley Jenkins and Edgar Shelton—who have been invested in making the district better for all students…not just black or white, Hispanic or Asian, male or female…but all students. Clinton has been very fortunate for much of its history. When schools integrated in the early 1970’s, many schools had serious issues. We did not have serious issues. We saw the beginning of a sports juggernaut with the integration of Bell Street and Clinton High Schools. As Clinton embraced integration, sports, the fine arts, and vocational programs excelled. Clinton High won four state championships in football in the 70’s, three state championships in theatre (shout out to Thespian Troupe 1031!), and numerous other accomplishments during a very tenuous time in our country’s history. Why? Because good people came together to do great things for a little southern town and, as Dr. Alexander always noted, to check their egos at the door. Individuals did not get credit, teams did! The town did. I wholeheartedly hope we have a very good turnout for the Youth Empowerment Symposium (YES) on Monday, January 18, at Clinton High School from 10:00 – 1:00 PM. And, yes, you are invited too! We are at a new point when differences appear more to divide than unite us. Let us step up and step forward to build collaboration, cooperation, and collegiality among our citizens and within our community. I think Dr. King would be very happy with this Monday’s symposium. You see, his day really is a day on and not a day off! If you agree, I hope to see you there. May it be so! (Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens School District 56.0

My Clinton News

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Clinton, SC 29325
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