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Thumbs Up! - Sept. 10, 2012

The "Making the Shade" program created by the Georgia Forestry Commission is designed to create healthier, shaded playground areas on elementary school campuses throughout Georgia. In order to promote the initiative, the GFC provides grants to schools interested in reducing ultraviolet radiation and ground level ozone as well as decreasing temperature and improving the campus appearance. Last month, one such grant was awarded to Twin Oaks Elementary School in Lee County. The tree planting will take place in January with some designated as memorials to lost classmates and others will be planted in honor of family members who are deployed overseas. It is expected, with the aid of volunteers, that the $4,500 grant will allow for the planting of 70 new trees on the school's campus, mostly on the playground. Jason Miller, principal of the school, credits staff member Cindy Laviano with spearheading plans to secure the grant. From the students, parents, staff, birds and squirrels, a big thank you goes out to Laviano.

Fort Valley State University is on the verge of opening a one-of-its-kind facility in the state. A 7,800 square-foot State Animal Facility for Emergencies (SAFE) will be used to house animals in an emergency such as natural disasters and animal abuse cases. Confiscated animals, both large and small, will now have a safe, clean place to be housed as they receive veterinary care and await new homes. Animals abandoned by necessity due to floods, hurricanes and tornadoes will also have a central location for temporary housing until they can be safely returned to their people families.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. That is exactly what happened when Westwood's football team lost its game against Stratford on Aug. 31. A two-year, 27-game winning streak was snapped with a 17-0 loss. The team, winners of back-to-back GISA Class A state titles, was quiet on the bus ride home, much as one would expect. What did the coach have to say about the end of the streak? Ross Worsham, who doesn't remember ever being shut out in his seven years as coach of the Wildcats, said simply, "Now we get to start another streak." That spirit and positive outlook is how the last streak began and why this team has continued to have such success.

Near the top of the back to school list of needs, right up there with pencils and paper, is blue jeans. For school systems without a uniform policy, the cost of keeping a growing child in blue jeans can be out of range for many families. The Lee County Varsity and Middle School Cheer Teams addressed the problem by sponsoring a "Jeans for Teens" drive. When all was said and done, the cheerleading teams had collected more than 300 pairs of jeans. Financially the recipients of the jeans may be less fortunate but not so in the back-to-school fashion department.

It is common knowledge (and a proven fact) that parental involvement in a child's school leads to greater academic success. Magnolia Elementary School is big on involving parents with the education of its students in the classroom and in the home. One parent, actually a grandmother, has taken on a plan to help her fifth grade grandchild. Shandora Coleman is spending time in math class to learn all about the "new math" being taught. Coleman states that she has become frustrated, as has her grandson, at homework time because she is unable to provide the help she is more than willing to give. When asked how long she will continue to attend the fifth grade math class, this dedicated grandmother said, "as long as it takes!" That is true involvement and for that, here is one super-sized 'Thumbs Up' to you.