“Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.”
After last Wednesday’s whirlwind tour of the vast facets of educational opportunities in Wilson County, there is little doubt we are fortunate.
In fact, I’m charging each and every person reading this column with telling someone who doesn’t know about all the good things going on in our schools. I don’t think I realized before last week just how important it is, and just how much it affects each of us.
Certainly there is the obvious. Above all, both state and federal law mandate schools. Contrary to popular belief, it’s perfectly within the confines of the law not to send a child to school; however, it is a crime to deny any child a proper education.
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the right to a good education in a 1944 speech on his Second Bill of Rights, which also included employment, freedom from unfair competition, housing, medical care and Social Security.
Nearly seven decades later last Wednesday, it was evident the privileges afforded students in Wilson County far outweigh FDR’s simple, yet profound, historic mandate.
Our tour began at Friendship Christian School, which at 30 years old will become the oldest high school facility in Wilson County next year. Both the social and technological advantages abound for students whose parents choose to send their children to Friendship. With the integration of church into state, the school cannot accept either state or federal funding, hence the need for tuition.
But there’s an iPad in every student’s hand, and the school touts chapel every other day. There’s also a pretty nifty coffee bar.
There are also no locks on any of the lockers, which President Jon Shoulders explained was part of an honor code.
From Friendship, the next stop on our tour was Winfree Bryant Middle School, the newest facility built in the Lebanon Special School District. And after only two years, construction will begin soon on a classroom addition. It’s a testament to the growth Lebanon and Wilson County are experiencing.
Principal Becky Kegley – who is a fantastic principal, although I say that under admitted bias because my son attends school there – told our class about a sixth-grade class recently chosen to be a pilot to go through an emergency response program.
Eighth-grade science teacher Tammy Shepherd told us about her rocketry classes and how they were among the best in the nation.
About a mile down Leeville Pike with a left on Hartmann Drive, we arrived hungry at Lebanon High School, and were treated to a three-course lunch prepared by the skilled hands of the culinary arts classes.
Wilson County Director of Schools Tim Setterlund summed up the lunch meeting with an overview of both the successes and challenges in Wilson County schools.
From there, our class visited the Adult Learning Center, where the dreams of a high school diploma are fulfilled by many across Wilson and Trousdale counties.
Admittedly, a two-problem example of the questions that appear on the graduation equivalency exam was missed by yours truly. In my defense, math is not my forte, but I know the definition of the word forte. What it did was give me a new respect for the adults who choose to get their diplomas years after high school.
From there, we were granted a rare first tour of the new Watertown High School, which will open to students Aug. 1 and make Friendship the oldest high school facility in Wilson County.
Even without the finishing touches, it’s evident the new Watertown school will be quite impressive. More importantly to Wilson County schools as a whole, the Watertown completion will make the oldest high school, Wilson Central, only 13 years old.
The new Watertown High School offers room for students to stretch their arms with two gyms, a new band room, choral room and athletic facilities. The 800 parking spaces on campus gives the school eight times more space than the current high school, which will become the middle school in Watertown.
Our next stop was MAP Academy, which, as principal Rick Miller explained, houses Wilson County students who don’t quite fit into a normal school setting for whatever reason. It’s comforting to know that no child really is left behind in Wilson County.
Our tour concluded at Cumberland University, which is the oldest educational facility in Wilson County. Even though some of the buildings show their age, the college’s online opportunities show it’s keeping up with the times and recognizes the future of education.
We are fortunate to have all these educational opportunities and more in Wilson County. It’s important for economic development. It’s important for both our children and adults.
Most importantly, it’s signficant for our future.
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.