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ISSN: 1936-0479

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Making a Difference

By Courtney Rae Wiggins
Salina Central High School

Sunlight seeped through the ivory blinds that covered Courtney’s double pane windows. She squinted as the sunlight poured onto her bed. Another day, another opportunity, she thought to herself. Ever since Courtney was named mayor of Smolan, Kansas she embraced that honor and sought out everyday to make a difference in her community. To the average person, this Monday morning appeared an ordinary day but not to Courtney; today held promise for the future. Determined to better the city, she tackled one day at a time.

So excited, Courtney flung her legs over the side of the bed as her feet landed onto the soft, beige carpet. Her mind began to reel of the tasks in need of immediate attention. The day’s itinerary was jammed packed... meet with city council to discuss the water sharing program, develop a water contingency plan because of the recent drought, address the dangerous animal provision to the City’s bylaws, and visit Gourmet Market to check in on the elderly owners John and Emma Matthews… She jumped in the shower as more errands popped into her head. Then she quickly dressed for her most important meeting of the day.

She hopped in her car and traveled to the local high school. Along the way, she reviewed her notes and pondered possible questions the students might ask. Being in a small community, Smolan High School had an average school attendance of two hundred students. They were proud children of farmers and entrepreneurs. Occasionally, a few students came in from the surrounding cities to escape the hectic lifestyle for a more tranquil, one-on-one learning experience. As Courtney entered the main doors, she noticed that posters covered the walls. The homey atmosphere was prevalent throughout each corridor. Within these walls, students poured in eager to learn and increase their knowledge.

There were only a handful of high school classrooms available so it was not hard to find the correct one. She walked down the main, straight hallway towards Mrs. Craig’s room. Once inside, Courtney glanced about the room. While she scanned the classroom full of students, she pictured the future. These students were the community’s future. Courtney gave a speech about the importance of life values in a small community. The students soaked in her words. Courtney’s four values were short and to the point: embody respect, humility, integrity, and passion into everyday life. Respect because every day people appreciate the feeling of self-worth. Humility because no matter how good someone is there is always room for improvement. Integrity because our rapidly evolving corrupt world needs and desires honest, hard-working people, and passion because it is our responsibility to do something we love. She stated, “It does not matter where you end up living, and it does not matter how much money you end up making. What does matter is if you enjoy what you are doing. If you are passionate about your work and ultimately your life, you will strive for excellence which benefits you, your workplace, and truly, your community.”

When Courtney graduated from college, she could have chosen any city in the world to live and put down her roots. She chose a small, rural town because she grew up in one and appreciated what she learned from living there. She learned what hard work meant while working on her family’s farm. While she didn’t come from an affluent family, she learned that she was in charge of her future. She chose to speak at the high school because she knew the school needed gymnasium work and computer upgrades, and the students needed these items to be competitive with other schools in bigger cities. They deserved opportunities just the same as the wealthier schools. She also knew the students needed to be encouraged. They already held the keys to success, but it was her job to enlighten them and show them which door fit their key. Courtney explained that their community did not have to be in a big city, but it could thrive in its rural setting. Her speech continued, and she endeavored to instill wisdom into the students. She reminded them that success is not only found in larger cities. Success is the essence of ingenuity at work, starting with the mind of a single individual. New ideas form everyday. It is up to individuals with ideas to act upon them. Smolan or Kansas City...Bennington or Lawrence…there are Einsteins waiting in the midst. Courtney told them that they were as equipped and able to succeed as anyone else, but they just needed to believe.

She encouraged them to take the initiative and begin a fund-raising campaign to raise money for the gym and the computer upgrades. Courtney wanted them to take ownership of their situation and be a catalyst in solving their issues, using the same skill sets they will need to thrive when they graduate and are responsible for the towns they live in. She could feel the student body concur with her and their enthusiasm started to boil over. Numerous students volunteered to head up the project while others volunteered to simply be used as workers within the campaign. And with that, one idea transformed from a thought into action. The students gave her a standing ovation vowing to make a difference in their town, using the resources they had and creating opportunities for themselves.

As Courtney left the school, her heart felt good. Not because she knew the school would soon receive those upgrades, but that many students learned life-long lessons that particular morning which would stick with them forever. She reflected a little longer upon her morning at the school and the remaining appointments she had for the day, and it occurred to her that nothing was more important than the time she had just spent with the students. If she could impress upon them one idea…that the students can achieve their own dreams by merely taking ownership in their community and focusing their energy on bringing success to whatever their situation then she would have succeeded. A student hollered at her as she was leaving the parking lot, “Thank you, Ms. Wiggins! Thank you for believing in us and believing that we have what it takes to succeed!”

 

 

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Last Updated March 8, 2011
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