"#TeamHopkins" uses social media to tell of community support activities of Hopkins Co. schools; superintendent: district wants to show students are giving back

Madisonville Messenger, Dec. 21, 2016

#TeamHopkins resonates with community
Staff report

A new cheer is catching on across Hopkins County Schools.

T to the E to the A to the M Team Hopkins!

The platform of Superintendent Deanna Ashby, who started on the job July 1, 2016, is that all schools are part of #TeamHopkins. The purpose is to encourage schools to work together to improve our community.

"We are just trying to get our students to understand the point of service to our communities and to be good citizens," Ashby said.

One of the first opportunities to work together came when WFIE Channel 14 invited Madisonville North Hopkins High School to participate in the Sunrise School Spirit Pep Rally and food drive for the Tri-State Food Bank. MNHHS students and staff quickly moved into action to collect nonperishable food items. However, it quickly became clear that this wasn't just a single school effort.

The food drive geared up in all of our schools - elementary schools, middle schools, even Madisonville North Hopkins' cross-county rival, Hopkins County Central High School.

The total collected was record-breaking - a jaw-dropping 36,000 pounds. Ten percent of it stayed with the local food banks, while the rest was distributed throughout the Tri-State Food Bank's 33-county service area. For the live broadcast featuring the pep rally, North Hopkins built a display of food featuring the energy bus along with an outdoor scene that included a bus stop, dog house, trees, and more.

"This provided an opportunity for all schools to demonstrate support for the Tri-State Food Bank and our local Christian Food Bank," Ashby said. "It truly reflected our platform of Team Hopkins."

The project has had continued impact, with schools encouraged to continue to hold drives for local food banks to help those who are hungry.

The #TeamHopkins initiative also includes Game Changer Awards, which are presented to student groups during Board of Education meetings. This award recognizes "Athletes in Action" or Kids/Clubs for Community" for making a difference through service activities.

The first Athletes in Action Award went to the MNHHS football team for their "Pack Away Hunger" project. Team members volunteered on a Saturday at First United Methodist Church to pack meals that would be used locally and shipped to other countries to feed needy families. With the help of other community members, more than 10,000 ready-to-eat meals were packed that day. Other groups that have been recognized include the Hopkins County Central FFA for volunteering at the Farm to Fork dinner hosted by Independence Bank. MNHHS volleyball team was honored for their First Responders Support Project, which involved making cards and packing goodie bags for more than 170 First Responders for the city of Madisonville.

A number of other community service projects are also taking place. Hopkins County Central High School served as the site for the Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk, with the school's football team leading the walk. The school's soccer teams also hosted a "yellow out" during a home game, launching yellow balloons and raising awareness of suicide prevention. Browning Springs Middle School served the Salvation Army's annual Thanksgiving lunch, and several schools have focused on helping veterans.

One of the most unique projects so far has been the homelessness awareness activity sponsored by James Madison Middle School's boys' basketball team, in conjunction with Hopkins County Christian Food Bank. The team held a "Patriot Sleep-Out" in October 2016. Players turned their electronics over to a parent. Around 6 p.m., they received a cup of soup, piece of bread and a bottled water. They then spent the night outdoors in sleeping bags on the concrete by the school. This offered a glimpse into the reality of life for homeless people.

While the spirit of cooperation is being celebrated, healthy competition is also encouraged. Dates when sports and academic contests are scheduled between the two high schools are now called #TeamHopkins Days. The community is encouraged to attend and cheer on all #TeamHopkins students.

The #TeamHopkins events have gotten a little extra attention on social media, as use of the hashtag has spread. Parents, schools and related organizations have started tagging #TeamHopkins in their Facebook and Twitter posts.

"Our students and staff are eager to share what we're doing," Ashby said. "I have seen a lot of excitement with our teachers and staff with the use of #TeamHopkins on posts about activities they want to showcase in the community."

District partnerships with local groups are essential to the continued success of these projects.

"I want to say thank you to the community for what they do for our kids," Ashby said. "Businesses, community groups and parents contribute so much through monetary donations, service, and the gift of time to our kids and our schools. We want to show how our kids are giving back."

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