by Adam Burkholder
Assistant Principal, North Rockford Middle School
“Rockford!” What is your initial thought when you hear this? Is it schools? Is it community? Is it both? From my perspective, the two entities are synonymous—when you refer to one you are speaking of the other as well.
Upon graduation from college and being hired here in Rockford, the popular question from former college teammates was “How can you move back and teach in the district you grew up in?” My initial answer to that question was to encourage those friends to come see for themselves, and many of them have.
Now that most of us have children, the answer has taken on a more deeply rooted answer. The blending of school and community is a powerful instrument in the success of our students, our schools, and the community of Rockford as a whole, and I am honored to be part of this community.
City and school leaders are continuously looking for ways to grow together. Our students will have yet one more opportunity to become involved for the betterment of both school and community.
The well-established Lions Club approached me last year about getting a junior Lions Club (Leo Club) going in the middle schools. Last year the concept began at East Rockford Middle School and will be carried over to the remaining secondary buildings this school year. The Leo Club will be comprised of students who want to give back to both their school and community. The only prerequisite is that you are a student in grades 7-12 here in Rockford.
In organizing my thoughts prior to speaking to our seventh- and eighth-graders from last year, I wondered how important community involvement was from a post-secondary perspective. On nearly every college application I reviewed (both in state and out of state), one of the first questions was: What community organizations have you been involved in? Now, the idea of starting a Leo Club in the secondary schools was not simply for the purpose of providing substance students can apply to a college application, but rather I feel it emphasizes the fact that getting involved in communities is a positive and powerful device for both individuals and groups as a whole.
There is no distinct separation between school and community—they are synonymous. This is a relationship created by design and requires more than hard work. Commitment to growing as a community and school is a powerful device in continuing to develop a small town like Rockford. How many communities can you name that share an identity such as Rockford? We have educators who want what is best for all of our students and a community that witnesses and acknowledges this. What a great place to be involved and what an incredible place to live. Where else would you want to raise a family? For me, it is natural for me to answer, “Rockford!”