Looking for a brighter tomorrow

By Chris Mortensen

Greenville Middle School

The events of the past few years have been interesting and challenging: the COVID19 Pandemic will forever stay in my mind, leaving an indelible impression on who I am. In the same way, Greenville Middle School students have also been impacted. The effects of the pandemic on our students will be seen and felt for many years.

Students and their families have felt the impact of the pandemic economically, socially, emotionally and educationally. While online learning was a helpful tool during the time that we could not be together in person, it cannot possibly provide the structure and on demand instruction needed by much of our student population. Lost socialization left students feeling isolated as they were unable to play, learn and connect with peers. Families struggled with the loss of jobs and income stability.

Middle school students are at a critical stage in their development; make no mistake about it, the past years have had a profound impact on each of them. For several years now, we have struggled as a school, a district and a community with various aspects of the pandemic; however, the picture is not completely bleak: I am encouraged by the many positive notes with which we have been able to begin the 2022-2023 school year. While it is easy to think that the effects of the pandemic are all dark, I would say that the opposite is true. Our students have shown incredible creativity, perseverance, resilience and patience.

During difficult times, we have the opportunity to see and discuss areas of growth and involvement that are otherwise hidden or missed. These areas of growth and involvement are the things we will remember as positive outcomes of the pandemic. Summer tutoring by district teachers has been available to students and has allowed our teachers to strengthen areas of deficit. Tutoring by Empowering Darke County Youth has also been available to students and has been an invaluable tool in bolstering student recovery and growth. Student leadership groups within the school have worked to support the student body by reaching out to students in need and seeking to build relationships between student groups.

Our student leaders hope to continue the work of building strong student relationships. Student leader, Addison Fine, shared that “the leaders are discussing going into classes during Wave Time to speak with small groups of students about mental health and just to talk kid-to-kid.”. She shared that the hope of the student leaders is to make connections with other students who might find it difficult to talk with an adult.

Students in our SPAC group have identified ways to support each other by reducing incidents of bullying and picking on each other.

We have seen improvements in student attendance and worked to put support in place for those struggling with discipline issues. Improvements in both attendance and discipline help students to have a healthy mindset and productive school year.

Students have had the opportunity to participate in assemblies with guest speakers such as Manny Scott. These assemblies are designed to encourage students that they can find hope in every circumstance and that they have the power to affect change in their lives. SPAC member Jack Gathard offered this about the Manny Scott assembly: “I think it was helpful. It helped me connect with aspects of how to cope with something I had to deal with in my own life.” Student leader Isaac Kerg shared his thoughts as well: “The guy was inspirational. He eased his way in and then got to more serious stuff.”

As a school body, we have seen proof over the past few years that the darkest times often bring the brightest light. Those willing to accept the challenges learn their own strength and shine brightly. I am encouraged by all that I have seen our students accomplish. It is comforting to see them set their focus on the needs of others and work together to overcome the challenges left in the wake of the pandemic. Our students have developed a heart for each other, identified needed areas of improvement and learned to problem solve and communicate plans to correct. Some may call this maturity, I call this strength in the face of adversity.