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On May 6th, the Community Foundation Of The Ozarks “Rural Schools Partnership” hosted a summit of sorts at the Thomasville Community Center in Oregon County. Mike Smith was there and files this feature for Making A Difference Where You Live:
Over 120 members of the partnership gathered for the first ever Rural Schools Rendezvous to discuss Rural School Partnership successes and best practices since the group was formed by the CFO in August of 2009. The summit also allowed opportunity for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to announce several grant recipients in the first ever Place Based Education Grants Program and the inaugural class of the Ozarks Teacher Corps. This first group of Ozarks Teacher Corps grant recipients includes 18 students who will receive annual scholarships of $4,000 from CFO’s 1.7 million dollar Chesley and Flora Lea Wallis Scholarship fund in return for a commitment to return after graduation to teach in rural areas for a minimum of 3 years. The students are from OTC, Drury, MSU-Springfield and MSU-West Plains and are members of the 2011 and 2012 graduating classes. At a breakout session outside the building near where the 11 point river flows nearby, outgoing CFO President Gary Funk tells the students to “Be activists for rural places and the region. We want you to be warriors for your schools and your communities, and that’s a theme we’ve been hearing over and over is that you want to give back, that you care, that you want to make things better”. Mykie Nash will teach in Nixa after graduating from MSU in 2012. She says “keeping parents and communities involved is a key component to successful rural schools” and the scholarship helps “Confirm that I went into education for all the right reasons”. After graduating from Drury University, Rachel Buck will return to her hometown of Monett to teach. She tells KSMU “I think it’s a great idea. (returning to a home area to teach) We know what the recourses are. We have a knowledge base of what’s going on and the potential there. I’m really excited about going back to my hometown to teach”.The Thomasville Community Center site was chosen for the meeting in part because of its rural location, and the person who spearheaded its renovation. The building is actually the original Thomasville High School built by the WPA in 1938. The Thomasville resident who led renovation efforts is Dusty Shaw, a 1959 graduate of the school who wants to rebuild the town and community spirit around the community center. The building is home to the Oregon County Library, the old gym’s floor is mostly original and refinished. The old cafeteria is the main gathering room at the community center, and an arena for fairly sizeable outdoor events is located just outside the buildings south entrance. Dusty Shaw says as the town of West Plains grows and more and more people want to escape from the “hustle and bustle” there, he expects to see his community grow and make the community center a busy and popular place. The Rural School Partnership employs 3 strategies in support of rural schools in southern Missouri: Develop Alternative Recourses, Promote Collaborations and Partnerships, and Support Place Based Education Strategies. The partners present at the conference included rural school faculty and administrators; CFO officials, affiliate board members and donors; business and community leaders; U.S. and Missouri Department of Education officials, and representatives from the Washington D.C. based advocacy group Rural School and Community Trust. RSCT Executive Director Doris Williams and Senior Fellow Rachel Tompkins spoke at the conference and to KSMU about the conference, as did U.S. Dept of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary John White. For more information about the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and the Rural School Partnership, www.cfozarks.org For KSMU and Making a Difference Where you Live, I’m Mike Smith.