By EMILY SPARACINO | Staff Writer
ALABASTER – Students from different schools in the Shelby County School District provided a glimpse into their studies and activities at the Shelby County Education Foundation’s Showcase of Schools on Monday, Feb. 28.
The event featured a student panel, an alumni spotlight and a short theatre performance before guests had the opportunity to visit interactive student exhibits set up throughout the Shelby County Instructional Services Center.
“We’re excited to have our students with us. They are the most important thing in our lives,” SCS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks said. “It has been said that good people love and care for their children. It has also been said that great people love and care for other people’s children, and in this room, you see great people who care about each and every student that is in this room. I’m so excited to be a part of such an amazing system for over three decades.”
Columbiana resident Jonathan Harrison, a 2010 Shelby County High School graduate, shared remarks about his educational journey in the Shelby County School System and the many teachers and administrators who became his mentors and greatest supporters.
“Shelby County Schools played a major role in my life,” Harrison said. “What I wanted to do today is go through my journey in Shelby County Schools and lay out what I learned as a human through those years.”
Harrison reflected on his experiences and the lessons he learned, starting with the first day of kindergarten and continuing through high school.
“Positivity matters, and the words people say to you matter,” Harrison said. “Make sure that your words and your people’s words are positive and uplifting. Want the best for each other, and help each other get there. Be a safe place to land, and when it’s time to get up, be a helping hand because we all need both.”
Harrison talked about the importance of being a good team member, even if it means occasionally standing in the background.
“Each member of a team, or each instrument in a band, has a purpose,” Harrison said. “Make sure you’re not afraid to be the supporting role sometimes. Make sure that your mind is open to full possibilities because someday, your clams and spaghetti is saving your entire team, and the next it’s your team member’s catfish curry.”
Harrison was referencing his time on the hit television show on Fox called Next Level Chef, a cooking competition in which he and other contestants had the opportunity to cook for renowned chefs Gordon Ramsay, Richard Blais and Nyesha Arrington.
“I completely attribute my success on this show and success in my community that I work in to these people that I mentioned,” Harrison said. “They have been influential, and I hope that as educators here, you know how influential you are each and every day.”
Harrison also talked about practicing what he calls “radical empathy” and understanding everyone faces different struggles.
“If we would just sit down and see the humanity in each person, that’s what matters, and that’s what each of these teachers taught me,” he said. “They looked at me and saw somebody who could be great. The advice that I got and the absolute joy that I have had in getting to work with these teachers later on has been wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
The student panel included Emma Carstensen from Calera High School; Jessie Holsombeck and Max Scroggins from Chelsea High School; Hannah Locks from Montevallo High School; Ryan Ross and Evan Smith from Oak Mountain High School; and Matthew Thompson and Kayla Woods from Helena High School.
Calera Intermediate School students joined Calera High School’s theatre students for a short performance from their upcoming spring production of The Lion King.
The student exhibits featured ELA, Fine Arts, Social Studies, Student Leadership, College and Career Transitions, Career and Technical Education and STEAM.
In one exhibit, Shelby Elementary School fifth graders Anna Grace Aderholt and Caleb Whitfield talked to visitors about their involvement with the school’s Serve Team, which organizes events like food drives and helps with various tasks around the school.
“You get to do a lot of things, and it’s really exciting,” Aderholt said.
Brooks said the school system has weathered many challenges over the past two years.
“I think through the challenges and the adversity, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves,” Brooks said. “We’ve learned about resiliency, or as we call it in our schools, ‘grit.’ Through it all, we have come out doing everything that we can to support our students and to give them the best opportunities, and today is an opportunity for us to share some of that with you.”