In third grade, events can carry a transformative significance. For me, it was 1995 and I had recently had a series of Strep infections, and it was determined that I needed to have my tonsils removed. Suddenly, I was in the hospital and preparing for a litany of tests that would culminate with a surgery that seemed anything but minor.
I was inconsolable. My mother held my hand and promised me that the endless supply of ice cream at the conclusion of this traumatic event would be worth it. My father, always the pragmatist, assured me that this procedure was statistically safe and the pain would be temporary. It wasn’t working, and it seemed inevitable that my parents would be asked to reschedule once they had more control of their son.
The situation was interrupted when a nurse said I had a visitor. This seemed strange since I hadn’t even undergone surgery yet, but I welcomed a chance to delay the proceedings. In walked my teacher, Ms. Bell, who must have sensed that an intervention was needed. Under her arm she carried a Checkers board. She remembered that I spent a lot of free time playing Checkers in school and had brought the board as a gift for me to use while I recovered. As she delivered the gift, she spoke softly and said that my nerves were justified, but “look at all the scary things you’ve done that aren’t so scary now.” We talked about starting school and meeting new friends, reading books with whole chapters and wearing shoes with laces. Ms. Bell was quiet but confident, and her words were certain. In retrospect, she probably spent less than five minutes in that phlebotomist’s lab with me. But in that time I realized I had a strong support system and the skills needed to get over this hurdle. Later that day, I walked out of the hospital with a great deal of pride and my sights set on a promised bowl of ice cream.
As I reflect on my time in the NAFC school system, I realize that my education was multi-faceted. Not only did I learn to read and solve math problems; I was given the tools to overcome fear and self-doubt, to think critically about solutions to the problems that beset our community, and hopefully, to carry that Checkers board right past the nurses’ stand when I have the opportunity to help the next generation.
I believe that supporting the Education Foundation is an immediate and effective way to give back to the school system that has given so many of us the foundation we needed. I am particularly passionate about the Blessings in a Backpack program. More than one in six Floyd County Children face food insecurity, and Blessings in a Backpack ensures those children have access to meals without shame or stigma. This is a small way to have a big impact, and I hope you will join me in supporting this worthy cause.
-Matthew Wiegman, New Albany High School ‘05