The strength of the K-12 public education system in this country has historically demonstrated the many ways that schools serve as the center of a community. As this center of community, the various activities of students and families consistently provide partnership and growth opportunities that contribute to all facets of a strong and thriving society. At times, these relationships extend far beyond the typical role of education or workforce development, and reveal the many ways that others support the needs of students, families and schools.
This type of support and strength is exactly what has emerged in the wake of the passing of Combs High School student Preston Lord. As our students, families and staff continue to grieve this tragic loss, the spirit of strength and kindness by those who surround us has never been more evident. Individuals, churches, organizations and business are among the many who have reached out to offer condolences as well as support for the family, students and schools. As we continue to collectively mourn, we also wish to thank those who have stepped up in a demonstration of strength and support.
Our neighbors in the Queen Creek Unified School District are just one example, with the Queen Creek High School student government providing a donation for our candlelight vigil, and the district’s facilities department loaning us additional lighting for the event. Other generous donations included flowers from two local florists and candles from Flatiron Church. And in an especially moving gesture of unity, students from various high school student councils across the state have expressed an outpouring of messages of love and support to our Combs students as they grieve the loss of their classmate.
As we enter the holiday season, this same inspiring spirit of partnership will continue to be demonstrated by our students, families and staff. We look forward to our annual food and toy drives to help families in need, and donations from local churches, Rural Metro, and families who year after year ensure that all of our students have a chance to celebrate the holidays.
A new partnership with AARP will also provide an opportunity for community members to volunteer in second and third grade classrooms to support young students with their reading skills. This partnership with the AARP Achieve Pinal Reading Program utilizes money from the state, district and the AARP Foundation to engage these volunteers and provide an experience for students that is not only beneficial to learning as well as enjoyable.
Throughout the year, there are countless instances of the symbiotic relationship of our students, schools and greater San Tan Valley community. We firmly believe that these activities are not only beneficial for the areas in which we live, work and learn, but also epitomize the reason that public education serves as a foundational component of our community. Collectively, this community is a better place to live because of each and every one of you.
Dr. Gregory A. Wyman is superintendent of the J.O. Combs Unified School District.