Can I Borrow a Pencil?

Imagine your first day of middle school.  You've just left the comfort and safety of elementary school, where you've been at home for as long as you can remember.  Many questions roll through your 11-year-old mind.  Will I fit in with all the kids coming from other schools?  Will the teachers be nice?  Will the work be too hard?  Will I be able to open the combination on my locker?

Back to school is stressful, whether it's a new start at a new school, or the final first day as a senior in high school.

Now, what if you had to do it without a notebook, paper or pencil?

Hundreds of students across Walton County head off to school empty handed each year, and more and more families are finding it hard to fulfill the recommended supply list due to unemployment and increasing situational poverty.

But kids won't be borrowing pencils.  Or paper.  Or other basic supplies that they need.

Thanks to supply drives conducted by FISH and Walmart, CIS Site Coordinators at Carver Middle School, Monroe Area High School, Walnut Grove High School and Social Circle Elementary School were able to distribute supplies to students in need.

"Binders are a big deal in middle school," said Amy Hunnewell, CIS Site Coordinator at Carver Middle School.  "Students need one for each class, and if they don't have them, it can be hard to stay organized and keep assignments on track.  Our students are really thankful for these resources."

Walmart donated 100 binders and 5-tab divider sets.  FISH received a variety of items, including crates of crayons, piles of paper, and a glut of glue.  Book bags, notebooks, index cards, highlighters were also part of the cache of supplies that were distributed through Communities In Schools.

"We weren't able to do our normal school supply distribution with our summer lunch program due to lack of funding," said Cindy Little, Executive Director of FISH.  "We are so glad to be able to distribute the items we received from local donors through the CIS sites, because we know that the CIS coordinators inside the schools know where the greatest needs are. With fewer resources and greater needs, it's important to be sure we make the best use of what we have."

"We are so thankful to Walmart, FISH and all the individuals and organizations who contributed supplies to help make sure students got off to a great start for the new school year," said CIS Executive Director Angela Yarman.

Meet Chairman Jimmy Hogg

The last thing Jimmy Hogg needed was something else to do.

The long-time educator and retired HR manager had just taken the helm of the Walton County Campus of Athens Technical College, when CIS came knocking, asking him to take a seat on the board.  Just a few months later, he was asked to step up to the chair.

"I didn't know everything I know now about CIS," he said, "but I knew it helps students do better in school, and that's very important."

Hogg was selected for the chairmanship because of his unique qualification to lead the organization through a critical period of organization development.

"Jimmy can see our work from both the business side and the school side," said CIS Executive Director Angela Yarman.  "It is very helpful to have a person with the broad range of experience he has while we work to step up our services in five schools."

Hogg began his career as an agriculture teacher, then served as a high school principal before taking a post at the Georgia Department of Education as director of career and technical education.  After retiring from the education system, he took a job as director of human resources for Standridge Color Corporation in Social Circle.  He retired from Standridge and later was hired to help with the transition of the Bryant Road campus from Walton County Schools to Athens Technical College, then became the campus director.

CIS Chairman Jimmy Hogg, campus director for Athens Tech's Walton County Campus.
Photo: The Walton Tribune

"I think CIS is important because it helps students overcome some of the issues that get in the way of their success in school," Hogg said. "We want to help students be successful and graduate, and then we hope to see some of them continue their studies at Athens Tech."

As CIS pursues accreditation from the CIS national office, a new focus on higher standards and richer programming has been needed.  Five sites have been established across two school districts, and the depth and breadth of services is unprecedented in the history of CIS in Walton County.

"It's great to have Jimmy's perspective," said Yarman.  "He helps us understand when our proposals pose a difficulty for the schools we serve, and he helps school leaders see the need for our programs to help prepare students for the current employment environment.  He is well respected by everyone involved."

His first order of business as the new chair has been to develop a three-year strategic plan and to help develop the leadership, resources and relationships to enable that plan to be carried out.  That has included organizing new committees, developing an annual plan and a fund raising program to support the work.

"A lot goes into being able to support students with the resources and services they need to be successful," he said.  "I think CIS can make a real difference for individual students and their families, for our schools and for the whole community.  We all have a role to play, and I am happy to have the chance to help."