ELLIJAY, Ga. – “It takes a village to raise a child.” An old proverb and quote repeated over the years comes home to Gilmer County as Gilmer High School returned to its annual Adulting Day event.
The event sees members of the county coming into the high school setting and volunteering to educate students on skills and life in society today. The lessons have ranged over the years from financial things like writing checks, balancing checkbooks, applying for loans, or starting a small business to personal ideas about life after school like possible careers, joining the military, and even personal health and hobbies to support it.
These volunteers from the community work alongside teachers in classrooms and are put into lessons building off of their personal expertise. Led by the Guidance Counselor’s Office, Adulting Day looks to aid students in information not directly taught in standard core classes.
The event has also evolved from its original form, in recent years, lessons have changed as volunteers have come and go and the number of lessons have increased. While originally only held for one grade, Adulting Day now includes every student in the High School with certain lessons done at different grade levels.
One of the school’s three counselors, Daniel Marshall said that this year saw about 40 community members volunteer their time for the day. Those included close to 95 percent of the volunteers from the last time the school held the day. Unfortunately, the COVID outbreak required the event skipped. With virtual academy and other responses taken to mitigate the spread many events suffered this fate.
However, while Marshall said that a couple did want to hold back this year, he added that they asked to be kept in mind for next year. He stated, “We are very grateful, very thankful that we live in a place where the community is willing to help.”
Starting in September, initially emailing community partners, the school fills in lessons and asks teachers if they have sessions they can teach. This allows every class to be filled in with important lessons about adult life. Classes also include careers in trades like welding and electrical work. Showcasing all forms of careers, the school branched into firefighters, military, nursing, veterinary, and much more. Layered on top of the other information, it becomes a day to prepare for life both soon after graduation and later on in life that could be post military or post college.
Nixon Bunch, a teacher in Gilmer High School, introduced kids to hiking and equipment used. As something he is personally interested in and has nearly a decade of time vested into, he offered a beginner’s look into the hobby. He said that his session was about the hobby but also about finding balance and taking care of your own mental health. While not a career path or basic skill, he noted that in life nature, being outside, exercising, providing these positives in life help to balance that health.
Reece Sanford, a manager at South State Bank, led discussions and introductions into starting a small business. From source ideas to getting a small business loan, introducing these students to the idea broadens horizons into an area some may not have considered. Sanford said that in rural America a small business is often needed for the community as they have far less corporate based jobs. Relating back to the community, Sanford discussed the economic impact of such businesses in the area. He went on to add how important he feels it is to work with students and how much he hopes that each one is able to take something away from this day and his presentation.
Working alongside these volunteers during Adulting Day, the schools prepare each year for the day to offer as much as they can. Taking feedback from the community and building on their successes, they can consistently improve and offer more than they have in previous years.
Marshall noted that each year also sees a survey given to the students for other lessons to add and to get feedback on the day along with the volunteers. He said that some of this years sessions came directly from suggestions made on the surveys from previous years stating , “We look at the data and we see where is the majority of the suggestion piling into. We take that information and see how we can incorporate it next year.”
When asked about the school and community cooperation, Marshall said, “It’s a massive impact because, we as counselors and educators in the building, our goal is not only to help the students learn the things they need to know while they are in high school but its looking forward and having a future focused mindset. What are your next steps? How can we help you get to that point? It’s things like this that help us get to that next level for those kids. Without the community people, we couldn’t make any of that happen.”