The high school football season starts in earnest on Saturday, with a doubleheader to be televised by ESPN being played at Norcross High School and a large crowd expected at the Georgia Dome to see four different local teams compete. But when it comes to our schools, there’s already been a lot to cheer about even before the opening kickoffs on Saturday.
In any system as large as Gwinnett County Public Schools — an enrollment approaching 167,000 to go with more than 10,000 teachers — there will be issues and items of complaint. It goes with the territory. But less than three weeks into the school year, we’re reminded again and again of the good news that comes from our schools.
Topping that early-in-the-school-year list is a heart-warming story that came from Mill Creek High School last week. The school honored the wishes of a student’s dying father, setting up a graduation ceremony for David Tran.
Tran’s father Tony, who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, is battling liver cancer and he has just months to live. His wish, he said, was to see his son graduate. Mill Creek made that wish come true last Thursday, packing the school’s auditorium while allowing Tony Tran to witness a graduation ceremony for his son.
It was an amazing act by the school, but one that was an easy choice according to Principal Jason Lane.
“If we had a chance to create a memory, have this kind of impact, we were all for it,” he said.
Former Mill Creek principal Jim Markham was one of my favorite people in the education field, a man whose reputation was as solid as his principals. It looks like his successor is the same type of person and that the school is in great hands. Kudos to everyone at Mill Creek for making that ceremony happen.
It’s hard to top a story like that, but our front-page feature about school resource officer Rolando Jimenez was in that same vein, showing how schools can be a great source of support at all times, especially when folks are in their time of need.
Jimenez, you may remember, worked at Lanie High and last year was hit during a horrific accident while he directed traffic in front of the school. His injuries, like the rehabilitation process he’s undergone, were tough to deal with. But Jimenez and his family have persevered, and though his knee will never be the same he has worked hard to be back now working part-time doing light duty.
He said the Lanier community helped give him strength. More than 100 people visited him that first day in the hospital and a Facebook page made in his honor has more than 3,000 “likes.” People have helped in every way, even bringing meals for his family.
“It’s been amazing,” Jimenez said. “All that support, not just (for) myself, but the whole family. Not just the Lanier cluster, but the entire Board of Education. Emails and calls from schools where I never worked.”
On a much lighter note, the first day of school saw a former Camp Creek Elementary student come back to take over as principal. Talk about living a dream. Valerie Robinetti went from being a kindergarten student at the school in 1981 to running it 32 years later.
Camp Creek is in the Parkview High cluster, and Robinetti lives in the district. One of her fellow teachers, Patty Cheek, put Robinett’s return in perspective.
“The fact that she’s part of the (Parkview) community is gigantic for the teachers,” Cheek said. “It’s like family already, because she grew up here and came back here. It says a lot about our community that adults want to move back…”
Those are great examples of the communal feeling schools bring to our county, and many more will emerge as the school year continues. Some of those will even happen this Saturday when the football teams take the field, showing their stuff.
There will be many reasons to applaud. But as the aforementioned stories will attest, there’s already been plenty to cheer about long before the first touchdowns are scored.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.