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The Big Support Networks Of Education In Small Communities

Education has been a topic widely discussed in past months, especially with the Teacher’s strike that shook Chicago this past September. The event brought up issues about public education in Chicago and the American education system as a whole, but most specifically as it applied to urban areas. However, this event also provides us with an opportunity to discuss the importance of education in smaller, non-urban area, the lessons that can be learned from them and the continued importance of preparing future generations for the challenges that lie ahead.

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Like many inner-city schools, small town elementary and high schools often lack the same level of funding that is enjoyed by public schools in other areas. This can mean fewer honors and AP programs, less funding for extra-curricular activities and less funding for the arts programs. The advantages of having such programs have been clearly documented over the years, but knowing their benefits has not made it any easier for small-town schools to come up with the resources to support them.

However, all is not lost.

In her article Small-Town Education: A Personal Perspective, Kathryn Peters, a graduate of Goodhue High School in Goodhue, MN discussed her experiences attending a high school with a student population of around 200. Although Goodhue lacked funding for more extensive programs like honors and arts programs, Ms. Peters said that the support students and the school received from the community and faculty more than made up for it.

“Something that people forget about small towns is that you always have someone there for you,” says Peters, “you’ve got a support group — not just your teachers, parents and peers, but an entire community. Maybe you don’t get every single opportunity as a student from the Twin Cities, but you’ll always have someone to motivate you, celebrate with you, comfort you and be there for you, no matter what.”

Ms. Peters says that the support and attention she received from members of her community inspired her to pursue a career in dietetics (food and nutrition), a passion that she discovered through a program called G.O.A.L.S. She also points out that this level of individual attention and support gave her the opportunity to stand out from the crowd, win scholarships and go on to a successful college career. She doubts if she would have found a support network such as this one had she attended a larger school.

Though they have their fair share of shortcomings and, like almost all other schools, are far from perfect, small-town schools can still  teach us a lot about the importance of community in the area of education. The content of our education is not the only thing that matters and although many of our schools may lack the funding enjoyed by other communities, every community has the ability to come together and work toward a better future.

Kathryn Peters is one of the many students who found success through the support of her community. “Is [my success] a result of luck? Maybe. Is it because I worked hard? Most likely. Does it have anything to do with the fact that I grew up in a small town with a huge support network? Definitely.”

No matter where we live or who we are, the support of our friends, teachers, parents and community continues to be as important to our students as the content we are teaching them. In a time of teacher’s strikes and tumbling test scores on a national level, it’s important that we keep this in mind and continue to be there for each other every step of the way. Over at OurPangea, that’s an idea everyone can appreciate.

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