Students at White Plains Elementary School spent Friday learning about citizenship and everyday heroes through a community panel.
Around 16 community members showed up to participate in a community heroes panel and answer student questions about their jobs and what they do to serve the community.
The panel coincided with this year’s book fair which has the theme of community heroes as well as National Literacy Month, Constitution Day and the curriculum study of citizenship. Students spent the days leading up to the panel talking about heroes including what makes a person a hero and who the students saw as their heroes.
Kristi Calton, the school’s media specialist, coordinated the event to help students understand that heroes can be found anywhere. Each class was asked to come up with a list of heroes which Calton drew from as well as writing about their own personal heroes.
“I want them to know that ordinary people can be heroes. They came up with people we never thought they would see as heroes,” said Calton, mentioning the students listed taxi drivers, lunch room staff members, librarians and bus drivers among emergency workers and military personnel. “I also want them to see that ordinary people also include themselves. They can be heroes, too.”
“Today was an example that we have heroes among us whether they are more traditional heroes or everyday heroes,” said Principal Sandra Scott. “We wanted to teach the children that there are heroes among us.”
Each grade level had its own panelists and were able to prepare a few questions for each person. The students took the opportunity to learn more about specific careers or to ask about aspects of a career that interests them.
Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson and Pat Ellis stole the show with Ellis’ police dog, Obi. Students were curious about Obi’s responsibilities, training and how he assists the police. They also were curious about how much time Ellis spends with him.
“Every day, 24 hours a day, he’s with me. He sleeps outside though,” said Ellis. “He’s a very valuable tool to my job.”
Watson also answered questions about the kind of equipment police officers use on the job including why they use guns and what kind of equipment can be found in a cruiser.
“The police cars are loaded with the latest technology. It’s a command post on wheels. Anything we need on a tour of duty is in that car,” he said.
Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson also heard questions about his experiences on the job and why he wanted to become a sheriff. He told students that growing up he knew he wanted to work on a farm or be in law enforcement.
“I saw a lot of people involved in drugs when I was in school. One of the things I’ve always hated were drugs and people involved in drugs,” he said.
Atkinson also was asked about the scariest call he has ever had. He told them the story of a drug bust that could have gone very wrong, but fortunately did not.
“Every time someone asks me that question, and I get asked that a lot, I can always think of something. Don’t ever let someone in law enforcement tell you they’ve never been scared. If they tell you that, they’re either stupid or they’re lying to you,” he said.
Delinda Kyle, a school resource officer at North Surry High School, spoke to the students about her role in the schools and how it can be similar to officers out in the community.
“I enforce the laws of North Carolina on the school’s campus. It’s like I have my own little community,” she said.
Jim Radford talked to the students about being a firefighter and an emergency responder as well as about what types of calls he runs and about his equipment.
“It was something I wanted to do the whole time I was growing up,” he said of becoming a firefighter. “It’s something I felt I really wanted to do to contribute back to my community.”
Students learned about the business world from Virgil Crouse who is a retired truck driver, Dean Simmons who is a local dentist, Tracey Hawks who is a local business owner working with concrete, Chris Nichols, a banker, and Shelley Taylor who works for an eye doctor.
They also talked to Kim Morris, a local author of a children’s book, about what she likes to write. Garnett Beasley answered questions about the Ruritans and what the organization does to help the community, while Tracey Hawks talked about the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.
“The PTO holds fundraisers and tries to make good decisions on how we can use that money to help you,” said Hawks.
Sonia Dickerson, teacher quality coordinator for Surry County Schools, talked about how she supports the community as well as the best part of her job.
“One of the good things I get to do is I am the United Fund of Surry coordinator for all of our 19 schools. We raised $51,000 last year, and there are many different ways that money goes back into the community,” she said.
Ron Haynes had a different perspective as a panelist because he was able to talk about how members of the community helped him. He received an electric shock one day which stopped his heart. An off-duty firefighter began CPR on him and was able to save his life. Students asked him how he was going to “pay it forward.”
“Me and the guys I work with are going to take CPR classes and help to bring awareness about it to the community,” he said. “I’m here today paying it forward to you guys.”
Morgan Wall, a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News, spoke to students about the different stories she writes for the paper and the experiences she has in doing that.
Organizers and panelists also let the students know that they can be heroes as well. They focused on the fact that not all heroes are superheroes, they are not Superman or Batman.
“If everything we do, we never stop learning. As long as we’re learning and helping others that’s the good part,” said Calton. “We have such a great school, staff and community and we had such an overwhelming response to this.”
Contact Morgan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.