By Heather Walker
Hillary Rodham Clinton made famous the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Small town residents know this as well as anyone, and Morenci has prided itself on this notion for decades. It’s one of the last remaining advantages of a small school district and, I believe, an important one. With dropping enrollment, shrinking budgets, and diminishing options, Morenci still has one major advantage over larger schools—we are family. Morenci teachers know virtually every child in the building—whether they have them in class or not. They generally know the students’ siblings, parents and even grandparents. Parent-teacher conferences often feel more like class or family reunions than formal academic discussions. It’s what makes us great, and it’s why my child attends Morenci Area Schools.
I am in the unique position of being a parent, a resident, an alumna, and a teacher. My stake in this district is high, as is my loyalty. I know what Morenci can do. I know what kind of success stories it can turn out. But it takes a village. It takes administrators, board members, teachers, coaches, parents and students, working together to make this district thrive. There is no magic formula or one single answer. It’s all of us doing our part, doing our best, and, most importantly, not giving up.
Things have changed. There is no denying the devastating effects of the economic crisis on communities and schools across the state. We are no exception. We’ve suffered more than our fair share of losses, but we are not lost. Many of us still believe that this small town is a good place to raise a family. Many of us still believe this school district, our school district, can nurture and educate our children better than any district in the state. We believe this because it is true, and it is true because it is ours. We take care of our own.
So much of success depends upon attitude. We have been successful in the past when we were united behind the common goal of being The Best. It was just last year, in 2011, that Morenci was recognized by the state as one of 100 “Beating the Odds” schools for academic performance. We didn’t receive that honor by accepting mediocrity at any level. We got it by working hard every day and believing in our school—all of us, from teachers and bus drivers to parents and students.
If we’re not willing to be our own champions, to be our greatest allies, who is? We must be resourceful. We must recognize our potential. We must stick together. The time is now. Stay put. Dig in. Get involved. Volunteer in a classroom. Support the Boosters or PTO. Serve at the concession stand window. Sell tickets at a basketball game. Too busy for the extras? Take a sincere interest in your child’s education. Encourage achievement. Reward excellence. Value education and expect success—even when success is not easy to come by.
A small school district does not mean a lesser school district. A diploma from Morenci can earn a graduate an acceptance letter to the University of Michigan, a recruiter’s call from the United States Marines, or a job offer with benefits in a skilled trade. These opportunities are available every year, including last year, to our kids. With growing opportunities for specialized programs, dual enrollment and shared resources, there’s no reason to believe Morenci cannot continue to rise to meet the challenges of tomorrow. But it can’t without your help.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If one man can free a country, certainly this village can raise its children.