The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Front.cheers
    MACEE BEERS joins other Fayette Elementary School students for the annual Mini-Cheer performance during the half-time break at the basketball game.
  • Family.3.wide
    CHILDREN at Stair District Library’s Family Story Time toss scarves into the air during an activity. The evening program provided a mix of stories, songs, dancing, crafts and snacks Monday evening. The program is offered at 5:30 p.m. every Monday for five more weeks. The program is designed for three to five year olds and their family.
  • Front.newpaper.2
    THE INTERVIEW—Evelyn Joughin (right) records the interaction with an iPad while Jack Varga, next to her, asks questions of Morenci Elementary School principal Gail Frey. Morenci senior Sam Cool (standing) listens. Cool serves as the editor for the newspaper written by members of Mrs. Barrett’s second grade class.
  • Front.code.2
    WRITING CODE—Brock Christle (left), a Morenci fifth grade student, takes a look at the progress being made by fourth grader Anthony Lewis. Libby Rorick, a sixth grade student, is next in a line of girls trying out the coding tutorials. This year marked Morenci’s second year of participation in the Hour of Code project.
  • Front.gym.new
    REMIE RYAN (left) tries to dodge the foam wand held by Hayden Bays during physical education class at Morenci Elementary School. In the background, Lauryn Dominique and Brooklyn Williams stay clear of the tag. Second grade students were working on cardiovascular health on the first day back from vacation. For the record, Safety Tag is a very difficult sport to photograph.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.library.books
    MACK DICKSON takes a book off the “blind date” cart at the Fayette library. Patrons can choose a book without knowing what’s inside other than a general category. The books are among those designated for removal so patrons can consider them gifts. In Morenci, new books and staff favorites were chosen from the stacks and must be returned. Patrons get a piece of chocolate, too, to take on their date, but no clue about their “date.” One reader said she really enjoyed her book for a few pages, but then lost interest—so typical for a blind date.

Trucker Buddies: Ken Derflinger, Doug Clark

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

Fayette resident Ken Derflinger has always enjoyed being involved in youth related activities. Unfortunately, his job as a commercial truck driver puts him on the road for upwards of 25 days a month. This doesn’t leave much time to volunteer in local schools or parks programs.

However, about six months ago, Ken caught a radio show segment featuring Gary King, the founder of the Georgia-based non-profit group Trucker Buddies.

The organization pairs truck drivers with classrooms, and the match-ups are a hit. Since 1992, Trucker Buddies has linked thousands of truck drivers with second through eighth grade classes all over the country.

trucker-guy Listening to King speak of his experiences, Ken thought the program would suit him well, and his employers at Wauseon’s Wood Trucking encouraged his decision to volunteer. In April, he was assigned a third grade class at a public elementary school in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Truckers enrolled in the program maintain a pen pal relationship with their students. Ken e-mails his classroom two or three times a week. Students e-mail him about once a month.

What does he write about? Anything and everything related to his life on the road. He sends the students updates on his journeys, digital photos of landmarks he encounters, and news about the cargo he’s carrying.

Many might think that truckers, who are often depicted as seedy and unsavory by popular culture, have little to add to the classroom experience. This misconception arises when people fail to see the big picture, Ken says. A view of the big picture is precisely what trucker buddies strive to offer—in more ways than one.

Few young students are well-traveled enough to understand how vast the countryside is—to know about the Tennessee mountains, the rolling hillsides of the Texas panhandle, the deep valleys in Missouri. They’ve never seen the Chicago skyline or the Great Lakes. The teacher of Ken’s class wasn’t aware that a buckeye is a nut and not an animal.

Through his stories and photographs, Ken helps awaken students to the sheer diversity of experience the country has to offer. He also tries to enlighten the students about the manufacturing industry.

At one point, his students had a hard time believing that he was carrying an entire truck full of Hershey’s candy bars—they couldn’t believe that that much candy could exist. So, as proof, he took a photo of his shipping invoice and sent it to them.

“They’re learning from a job that most people take for granted,” he said. “A lot of students don’t know that there’s a big process involved in getting their next box of macaroni and cheese from the production plant to the dinner table.”

“If you ask some children where milk comes from, they’ll say ‘the grocery store.”

Trucker Buddies also work with teachers to devise educational exercises related to the program. For instance, students might calculate how many regular-sized cars it would take to equal the weight of a semi-truck, or add up the length of his daily journeys to find the total distance of a shipping route.

“I especially like the geography connection,” said Waldron elementary school teacher H. Hukill.

Last year, Morenci resident Doug Clark served as a Trucker Buddy for her class of second graders. While Ken is more apt to use the computer to communicate, Doug liked to rely on good old snail mail—sending post cards from various destinations to the students.

When the cards arrived, students attached them to a map of the United States on the classroom wall, tracking their pen pal’s progress. Doug also sent the class various souvenirs from his travels, such as a chunk of salt from the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

There is no one way to go about being a good Trucker Buddy, says Ken. He often logs onto the www.truckerbuddy.org to find new ways to contribute to learning. However, the program isn’t for everybody.

Some truckers sign up for the program without realizing just what it entails—eventually falling out of contact with the students as they grow tired of the responsibility. Ken says the teacher of his classroom went through two Trucker Buddies before finding one that stuck—him.

Two weeks ago, Ken’s dedication to the classroom paid off—he finally got to meet his students. His dispatcher in South Dakota assigned him a load of paper rolls headed to Ontario, Calif., and the route took him just six miles north of Albuquerque.

In Ken’s words, the kids went “crazy” when he showed up with enough pizza in tow for everybody. Of course, the teacher knew he was dropping by, but they planned his afternoon-long visit as a surprise.

Over the course of the next few hours, he answered students’ questions and conducted a tour of his rig. He even accompanied the children to recess, where he was treated like a school-wide celebrity.

“They all had to introduce me to their friends and brothers and sisters,” he said. “It was really something.”  

   - Oct. 4, 2006

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