Southwest Middle's staff goes the extra mile

While most of the young people in Mecklenburg County have been out of school pursuing vacation and fun, 180 students at Southwest Middle School have continued their schooling in a monthlong summer session.

It might surprise you, but, as a former educator visiting the school recently, I saw most students looking engaged and happy.

As I spoke to Dr. Valerie Williams, principal, and Joye Henderson, administrator of the summer session, their love of working with children was contagious. I can appreciate why their staff would go the extra mile.

“I do believe teaching is a calling,” said Williams, as she described her delight in the achievements of two history teachers during the last school year. They took their students to an International History Day competition at UNC Charlotte. The only public school, Southwest Middle placed in each category entered.

Southwest's summer program offers remediation to students who had trouble with math or need help learning English as a second language. The time is spent working on individual weaknesses.

The students come from throughout the south learning area, from middle and high schools. About half are enrolled in ESL, working to further their comprehension and add to their understanding of the local culture.

The session began on June 30 and runs 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays.

Days start with breakfast, then students go to the classroom. The curriculum is peppered with reading aloud, guest speakers, a field day for math students and an International Day celebration for ESL students.

Both Williams and Henderson praise the professionalism of the summer school staff. Games such as Scrabble, Monopoly and chess helped develop proper English vocabulary.

Eight speakers from the community visited and talked about issues relevant to middle school students.

Jenean Davis, originator of Girl Talk, addressed issues of self-esteem, conflict resolution and focusing on goals.

Velma Leake, a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, asked questions like, “Where are you now? Where are you going? How will you get there?”

Latarja Henry, who works in public relations for CMS, put the concepts in computer terms: “Put the right things in and get the right things out.”

Rev. Percy Reeves, pastor of Sanctuary United Methodist Church, is a letterman in football who went on to become a minister.

He talked about changing direction in life.