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Leaders meet to discuss issues affecting youth

By Beverly Cockrell
and Lew Vail

CORRIGAN – "It takes a village to raise a child," as an old African proverb states, expressing the importance of the family and community connection in society. The same holds true for Corrigan, Texas.

On Tuesday, November 1, members of the clergy, business leaders and community officials met at the high school with school officials by invitation of Corrigan-Camden Superintendent of Schools Sherry Hughes. Hughes requested this meeting in an effort to start a conversation about combating the problems of many of the children in our community face and to hopefully initiate an outreach program in an effort to focus on doing more to make our children successful and happy.

Hughes listed her goals, and noted the importance on focusing on positive, open lines of communication with all groups, and celebrating C-CISD. She noted that all members of the school board attended C-CISD, and were all proud to serve their school.

Even though Hughes led the meeting, she was quick to point out it would take the community as a whole to combat the problems facing our kids. And, she also reminded the audience that these "problems" are really not new they are simply in a different form.

Hughes presented the issues that she sees in the schools such as low grades, discipline issues, and other factors. She added that the schools need to be "connected" to the community's businesses and places of worship. In discussing strategies, Hughes quoted this line about students: "The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise." As many heads in the room nodded, she then told them Socrates wrote it in 600 BC. Children are no different now then way back in history.

Hughes pointed out when talking to students, they complained there is nothing to do in Corrigan. However, the school offers a variety of after regular school hours activities such as athletics, UIL academic preparation, student council activities on all three campuses, Learn to be a Leader programs, band, choir, FFA, track and Bible club.

One local minister said he felt that when they took prayer out of school, it was a mistake. Hughes responded that students still pray in school but no prayers are led by teachers or the administration. Just last week one students lead a prayer for a fellow student who is having health issues. They also pray before sporting activates and they assemble for the See You at the Pole prayer each year.

In addition, the school started using state funds to help pay tuition for Angelina College courses that students can take to get a leg up on a degree. There are also several two-year programs they can take leading to employment after graduation, such a phlebotomy, certified nurse's aide, welding certification as well as the woodworking program that could lead to employment at the new RoyOMartin OSB mill now under construction in Corrigan.

There were comments and suggestions from the audience.

One question arose about the possibility of drug testing all students. Hughes said only those in extracurricular activities have signed releases allowing the school to perform the tests. Parents can request their children be tested but the school cannot randomly do testing.

C-C Elementary Principal Barbara Roden pointed out that on a happier note, she has witnessed more students being respectful and polite with each other and with teachers this year more than in years past.

Angela Ener made the point that all of us should set good examples for our children to follow.
Pastor Phil Corbett and his wife Rachel were also present and stressed the importance of keeping an open door for the youth to talk about their problems and concerns. They have raised their family here in Corrigan but are concerned and anxious to do whatever it will take to help.

Corrigan Mayor Johnna Gibson said that this year instead of having the annual Winterfest, on the city square at the beginning of the holiday season, the city is "trying to get [singer and motivational speaker] Panda Ross" back to town on Saturday, December 3, for a type of "youth rally."

Susan Torrez, C-CHS Principal, recommended a character development program that could be emphasized and correlated between churches, community officials, business leaders, and school campuses. This character program would be a unified effort on the part of all to focus on specific character traits for the month or whatever time frame decided upon. A majority of audience was in agreement that the character development program should be implemented.
On Monday, November 7, Mrs. Hughes stated that she is "researching the character program Susan mentioned. She found her resources and brought them to me. My goal is to share the program with all groups inside our school district boundary lines. I am not sure which direction this endeavor will take us, but we have to take chance."