Congratulations to Jamie Wachter, of the “Suwannee Democrat, Mayo Free Press, Jasper News,” a talented journalist who is our newspaper editor, along with all the staff at the “Suwannee Democrat” for receiving well-deserved accolades at the recent Florida Media Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.

As an educator and School Board Member, and a part-time employee of the Suwannee River Regional Library, I am always encouraging individuals to read.

I think of a quote given to me by a pioneer African American educator in Hamilton County, now deceased, and she shared with me a profound truth:

“If a child can read and read with proficiency and comprehension by grade 3, he or she can ACHIEVE a good education, and if they can’t, they will struggle to RECEIVE ‘schooling.’” Now, there are those who will agree and disagree with this to various degrees, but whether one chooses formal education or vocational training, a certain degree of reading proficiency is needed.

Not only is the local newspaper a great place to read about local happenings, but it is also a wonderful tool for teaching students to become more proficient readers.

For part of a year, I taught struggling readers at the middle school level, grades 6-8. I found a way to increase their reading interest, and it took some doing. One way was to go home each night and write short stories at a median reading level, and for most of them, it was about fourth grade; and include their names, and this was a challenge for me, but I worked at it, and they responded. We all had a good time. Another effective instructional tool was the local newspaper.

From their community newspaper, I taught them about headline stories, how to use the newspaper to find the section regarding the weather, the use of the index in the newspaper, weather from various cities in the world. We discussed places their friends and relatives resided. We used the newspaper to find a city in close proximity to, or in some cases, located where their family members and friends resided, and talked about the weather in that place.

This led to discussions about other issues, and we utilized a newspaper as a teaching tool for so much of what we did. It worked for me with these children, and it held their interest and kept them busy. A minor miracle for middle school-aged children, and I love them, as I do all children. Those who have taught them or have them, you know what I mean. Middle school is a challenging time for children, for parents and for teachers.

Many people wish their lives away, whining and complaining about what they don’t have to do “so and so,” rather than utilizing what they “do have.” What we “do have” in this area is a good quality local newspaper, and we are very fortunate to have it. What we “do have” is a good quality public library system in Suwannee, Hamilton and Madison counties, part of the Suwannee River Regional system. These libraries are located in each major community in the tri-county area, and I know Lafayette County has a great public library, too.

Public libraries, the local public schools, area newspapers all share something in common, they are all doing everything they can to make our local communities have “added value.”

Anything that helps any one of our local citizens lead a more full and productive life, helps us all.

I was pleased to note that North Florida College, formerly North Florida Jr. College, then North Florida Community College, has opened a branch at the historic train depot in Live Oak, Florida. We are blessed with an excellent technical school with RIVEROAK Technical College in Live Oak which provides many opportunities for area students to further their educations in a trade or vocation.

Before closing this week, I wish to congratulate three separate individuals and/or entities in our area.

Congratulations to Raylen Farries, White Springs, Florida. Raylen is a student at Columbia High School, Lake City, Florida, and wrote a play chosen to be produced and performed at the Norman Choice Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, July 20, 2019, entitled “Murder at Table Twelve.” About 200 folks came out to support this young, talented playwright on a sultry Saturday afternoon, and I am so proud of her. She is the daughter of Shauna Adams-Farries, and the maternal granddaughter of Willow Tillman Adams, all of White Springs, as well as the late Dr. James W. Adams, who taught for many years on the faculty at Talladega State College, Talladega, Alabama. Congratulations Raylen. We are proud of you!!

I also want to congratulate the family of the late Mrs. Verna Mae Johnson, out on the River Road, 25-A, at the historic “Hucklebuck,” their family home, for providing a place where friends can exchange ideals, enjoy good food, conversation, and laugh and remember. This Saturday, July 27, around noon, will be 43 years the family has hosted their annual Jamboree which began with Mrs. Verna Mae as a way to encourage community participation and political advocacy. She was all about “voting” and the privilege to vote, and she was about family and friends and creating an event where so many local politicians came to “us” in a small community on the Suwannee River, and this might not have occurred, had it not been for her vision. We remember with love and affection, one who gave of herself to God, family, friends, and the community. She did the best she could, with what she had, where she was.

Finally, thank you to all of those in our area who have conducted summer programs for our children, the local public school systems, the public libraries, the churches, the local 4-H clubs, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park with their music camp for children, the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Springs, Florida, in association with the Town of White Springs, Hamilton County Public Schools, and others, including many dedicated volunteers and paid staff members, in bringing the HOPE program as part of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Mathematics) grant from the United States Department of Education, who made funding available through competitive grant applications. It does, indeed “take a village” and in this case, it took several for all facets coming together for children from our area communities in north central Florida.

Thank you, too, to the local newspaper for effectively covering the HOPE program and thank those associated with the program for providing the local newspaper regular articles with photos. Great job!! Win/Win!!

Now, before I close, I want to mention something, and I will utilize an expression used by my friend, the late Mrs. Virgie Cone, an outstanding Floridian, first female principal of a secondary school, Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, and a Hamilton County native, who would write her column “Thoughts” each week in the “Jasper News” and, at the end of her column would express in writing: “Think About It.”

This may not make a dab of difference, but “Think About It;” if local entities want something placed in the local newspaper in the way of news, let me share with you how simple it is, write your column, take your photo if desired, attach it to your column and e-mail it to jamie.wachter@gaflnews.com, and mention the newspaper you want it published, and I can just about guarantee, you will see it published. You may want to phone before-hand as a courtesy, to the Suwannee Democrat at 386-362-1734 and ask to speak with Jamie, the newspaper editor. If he’s not there, leave him a message, and he’ll get back with you. Don’t wait for the water to come to you, my advice, “Go to it” if you have club news, school news, events in your community, do what HOPE program staff members have done: “Write your articles and send them in or send it to me at chat1924@windstream.net and I will help you with it. As the late Mrs. Cone wrote: “Think About It.”

From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a week filled with joy, peace, and, above, lots of love and laughter.

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