Blog Author: Brittany Williams, CEN Director of Continuing Education
“Down on a Dirt road, where things don’t change
And everyone still knows your name
You’ve got a place to call home, and you’ve got place to hide
You’ve got a land you love and a name to be proud of
And you’ve got the address to the Good Lord up above
There ain’t much more you could ever ask for
When you’re born down on a dirt road”
The lyrics of Frank Foster’s song “Dirt Road”, says it all for me. Since the 1950s, our rural and urban populations have swapped and it is evident as one drives through all the small towns of Texas. It is heartbreaking to see those that are no more than ghost towns. The same little communities that once held family gatherings, the best steak fingers for miles, maybe a fandangle, and always at least one each of every church known to the “country man”.
The top two reasons people migrate to “the city” is – jobs and education. For decades, urban high schools have offered workforce certifications and college degrees. They adapted to changing times and the rise in technology-driven careers. As a result, jobs have been created and many graduates have a more viable and employable skillset. Meanwhile, “the country” folks were enjoying the slow-paced life, never missing a Friday night football game and staying true to the belief that school ends in May of the 12thgrade year.
I grew up on a farm, where I was blessed to learn all the important life lessons like how to haul and stack hay, break ice in water troughs, bottle feed calves, and the list goes on. When I became a classroom teacher, it didn’t take me but a few weeks to notice the extreme deficit in life skills among the students in the very same high school I had graduated from just six years before. What I was witnessing was the impact of long-term standardized testing, the expansion of technology and the transformation of family dynamics. I immediately went into problem-solving mode and worked to try filling the gaps and created a “How-To” class. It consisted of soft skills, financial literacy, organization, time management, study skills, note-taking, exposure to a multitude of careers, the college application process, community service and so many more lessons on just how to do life. A bonus to this class was that I took them out to my granddad’s shop and taught them how to change their oil, rotate their tires, and for the most important lesson…how to back a trailer!
Shortly after, I ran across the development of what Roscoe was doing. Watching from afar back in 2008, later joining in on external rounds, to a little closer when my husband taught welding there and my son got to be a part, to now joining in as Director of Continuing Education, I could not be more excited to help carry out the solution, that I truly believe will transform rural Texas. We have a crisis on our hands and still a long row to hoe, but if we want our grandchildren and greats to have the opportunity to grow up on a dirt road, every hour spent is well worth it! I encourage you to take a minute to listen to the words of Frank, especially during those challenging times when the GRIT is running low. May we have the most successful year yet!