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Not just for kids

From companies to children bringing in their allowances to make a donation, there’s been a wide range of support to help the Agricultural Learning Center to be built at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.

Local business owner Tim Edwards has been hard at work in his efforts to get the center built, and Edwards has reached out to the Lebanon City Council to get that group involved in the project.

“We wanted to approach the city to give the city a chance to be involved in this project, because it’s kind of like a community barn building,” Edwards said. “We’ve got a lot of kind, good people that have donated to the project.”

The groundbreaking for the barn’s construction is expected to happen within the next month.

“We designed the barn to be used year-round for agriculture education,” Edwards said. “The state of Tennessee has donated $1.05 million to the project, and the county has donated $2 million to the project.”

The building isn’t just for a specific organization.

“The project is about education,” Edwards said. “We sometimes go to some of the schools, but this (building) gives the opportunity to schools to take the kids on a field trip to a place to do that kind of education.”

The building will have a hatchery inside and will help kids participate in the 4-H Chick Chain.

“This will enable kids to put the eggs in the incubator for 21 days to help maintain the humidity and temperature,” Edwards said. “It’ll help them hatch the chicks out, raise them, judge them, and they have an auction for them so the kids can raise money.”

The city council will discuss the agricultural learning center at its upcoming work session.

“I’ll explain the building and everything about it to the city council so they can understand,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ goal for the building is education for all.

“It’s to educate kids, but also grown-ups,” Edwards said. “Last year, we were approached by a 50-year-old lady who pointed at one of the animals and wanted to know what it was. It was a dairy cow. She didn’t know that the milk that she drank comes from a dairy. So, the building is not just for kids. It’s for grown-ups. It’s for showmanship. It’s to teach people about the responsibility of taking care of animals.”

Learning the system

Victory can mean a lot of things to different people.

For the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, victory this summer will mean “Vigilance In Connecting To Our Responsible Youth.”

From June 5-7, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office’s Camp Victory will teach middle-school students classes on bullying, online safety, along with drug and alcohol awareness. Applications for the camp are open until May 17.

“The goal of the camp is to help our young people manage potential problems that they’re faced with on a daily basis, both in and out of school,” Wilson County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Scott Moore said. “We want to offer team-building skills and (teach) confidence, so that when they’re involved in (a bullying) situation, they’re confident enough to stand up for themselves and to report it.”

Gladeville Middle School school resource officer (SRO) Joe Bowen has been an instructor with the program since it started in 2016.

“I would talk to them about the dangers of alcohol and tobacco,” Bowen said. “Kids these days don’t know the toll (drugs and alcohol) can take on their health. All they see is other kids talking about it. They see other kids doing this, and they want to be cool. No one explains to them how harmful it is or how it hurts your body.”

Near the end of the class, Bowen pulls out a pair of DUI goggles for his students to try. The goggles mimic the way that being under the influence of drugs and alcohol affect vision.

“I would make them put the goggles on and try to walk a straight line,” bowen said. “We’d do something that we would do when we pulled somebody over and did a sobriety test. We’d make them hold their foot up or throw a football towards me. I think them seeing how off they feel after being under the influence makes them realize what can happen.”

As an SRO, Bowen has been able to see that drugs and alcohol affect middle-school students, as well as high-school students.

“There is a problem with kids having vapes or talking about drugs and alcohol,” Bowen said. “At this age, a lot of kids will be left at home alone. Kids stay at home, and sometimes, parents have alcohol in the house, and they’ll think that their parents will never know it’s gone. At this age, I think it’s very critical that they understand what this stuff does to you.”

Like Bowen, Wilson County Sheriff’s Office deputy Charles Mothershed has been involved in the Camp Victory program since day one.

“One of our big things is that we say a lot is if you see something, say something,” Mothershed said. “We’re trying to teach these kids that are going through middle school and into their first year of high school how to deal with bullying issues and online bullying. We also give them a look at what we do and try to give them a positive experience with law enforcement.”

For three days, the students of Camp Victory will take classes that will teach them about bullying the justice system.

“They get to tour the jail, and this year, it’ll be the new jail,” Mothershed said. “They also go to the court system, where Judge (Barry) Tatum and Magistrate (David) Kennedy make time in their days to talk with them about how it works.”

In addition to learning about the justice system, the students will also learn about how the sheriff’s department operates.

“They get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in the sheriff’s department, not only just in the juvenile division but in all the divisions as well,” Mothershed said. “I also usually take them on a tour of the dispatch area, talk about what dispatch does and how they operate.”

For instructors like Mothershed and Bowen, the best part about the program is the students.

“I think they get a lot out of it as far as the the team-building skills and being able to talk to people and knowing when to identify a problem and report it,” Mothershed said. “It’s always fun to watch them come from not knowing anything about what we do to knowing a whole lot. I enjoy the interactions with the kids more than anything else.”

Protecting the kids

The Watertown City Council approved funding for the Watertown Police Department to outfit its new police cars and purchase three automatic rifles on Wednesday night.

The rifles are a part of the department’s response to the Covenant School shooting on March 27. The department already owns two automatic rifles, and the cost of the additional firearms is $2,007.

“We don’t have 10 minutes,” Watertown Police Department Assistant Chief Mike Henderlight said. “We don’t have 15. We’re there in less than a minute. We can’t sit in the parking lot. We’ve got to go in. We got to have the stuff (needed) to go in and meet force with force.”

The Watertown Police Department has participated in group meetings with county law enforcement officials and emergency management service officials. Following those meetings, the department is planning to begin having mandatory schools walk-throughs for its officers.

“The purpose of all this is to get them familiar with the schools and the layout,” Henderlight said. “You could look at a map all day and not figure it out when you get in there. My philosophy is if you’re going in every day, and walk down every hall, (it’ll help). It probably should have been that way from the start, but it will be that way going forward.”

Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings agreed that regular walk-throughs of the schools were a good way for the department to build up a working knowledge of the buildings to prepare for an emergency.

“Our high school and our middle school are elevated to where you can see them from the road,” Jennings said. “When the county built the elementary school, I spoke against putting it down in that hole, because the back part of that school is not visible. Somebody could go in there and do some damage and not be seen by a passerby or somebody at a house there (nearby).

“I think it’s a great idea to do (walk-throughs).”

The Watertown police officers doing regular visits with the schools should also increase the trust that students have

“I think learning the layout of the buildings also gives our officers an opportunity to build a rapport with the kids,” councilman Steve Casey said. “There’s a mentality with the younger generations that the police are the bad guys. This is a way to build a rapport with the community and with the younger generation that you’re here to help.”

The new guns will be equipped with standard steel sights and would utilize ammunition already purchased by the department. The police department has received a quote from Craig’s Firearms Supply.

“I would like to use some of the surplus money that we got for (selling) the three (old) police cars,” Henderlight said. “I would for the council to consider using some of that $10,000. We were allotted $20,000 to buy two used cars. We chose not to buy two. We bought one, and I would like to use some of that money and the surplus money to outfit the cars and buy some of the things that we need.”

The outfitting of the vehicles will include installing lights and sirens.

Watertown Public Library Branch Manager Pamela Wiggins also visited the city council meeting Wednesday night to spread the word about renovations that will close the library in mid-may.

Currently, the remodeling is expected to cause the library to be closed the second and third week in May.

“There are going to be quite a few changes, but they’re changes for the better,” Wiggins said. “We’ve been in that building for quite a few years, and it’s time to update it and make it better.”

Expanding programs for a growing district

Wilson County’s career technical education (CTE) programs are expanding thanks to the Tennessee Department of Education’s Innovative School Models Grant.

“We’ve talked a lot about — or you may have heard a lot about — CTE innovative grants provided by the state,” Wilson County Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell said. “We have finalized our grants, which have been approved by the state.”

The grants will fund programs in culinary arts, construction and animal science for students across Wilson County.

“We know that we’re going to grow as a district, and we know these are some programs that our kids need,” Luttrell said.

Wilson County CTE Supervisor Bonnie Holman submitted the grant proposals and provided an overview of the benefits the approved grants provide.

“Last January, Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly passed a historic investment in our public high schools and middle schools,” Holman said. “It’s $500 million in total, which allocates $1 million to every public high school and $500,000 to every public middle school. The initiative behind that was to make our students in Tennessee more workforce ready and create more student success after high school.”

In Wilson County, $8.5 million was granted to fund programs in five high schools and seven middle schools.

“We get to use these funds to help grow our current technical education programs, support our educators and create more student opportunities,” Holman said.

The district was surveyed to assess how the funds need be used. The plan for the funding was developed in partnership with parents, administrators and teachers.

“Middle school is an area that is new for career and technical education,” Holman said. “Wilson County, we’re ahead of the curve. We have middle school CTE programs in place, so I’m excited to be able to expand those opportunities for middle-school students. The highlight is a mobile career exploration laboratory. They don’t have the shop setups and a lot of the digital arts and audio visual programs that we have available to our high-school students, but those students need to know what opportunities they have available to them in high school.”

Another thing created was an aviation flight program that is a partnership with the Lebanon Municipal Airport. Students from across the district would be able to participate in that program, which would initially only be open for juniors and seniors.

“If you’ve taken a look at the workforce across the board, you have noticed that there is a shortage of workers, and the flight aspect is one of those areas,” Holman said. “There’s the potential for Nashville to be a hub for Southwest (Airlines). It’s an area that we had a strong voice that there was a need for (programs). In addition, when we surveyed our students in grades 6-11, there were over 2,000 students interested in the aerospace flight program.”

The equipment and technology that the grant will help to provide varies from campus to campus.

“We have programs that vary from welding to health science, to the coding industry and industrial maintenance,” Holman said. “So, what those programs need will vary by campus, but there’s funding allocated for each of those.”

The grants will help facilitate the growth of Wilson County’s CTE programs.

“I’m so proud of our CTE programs in Wilson County growing so strong and clearly growing stronger,” board member Carrie Pfeiffer said.

Mt. Juliet’s Sierra Shoop sees the safe call from the umpire after scoring on a wild pitch in the sixth inning for a 4-1 lead. Lebanon pitcher Laina Knight covers the plate.