By Tricia SansomYesterday, I had the opportunity to join a caravan of heroes. For the last 10 years, Ray has been overseeing charter dropout prevention schools in Okaloosa, Walton, and Santa Rosa counties. Yesterday was Walton’s caravan graduation day! I’m thankful that I was able to observe the celebration in the hearts of the principal, staff, teachers, students, and their families!! I want to share some of what I saw. When we rendezvoused at 8:30 a.m., teachers and staff came equipped with car paint, posters, banners, and a rendition of Pomp and Circumstance. They enthusiastically decorated all of our cars. Because they serve students all over Walton county, the principal had mapped out a day-long route to stop at each graduate’s home. We drove for sometimes 20 minutes between homes. Graduates, their families, and at times, whole neighborhoods were standing in front yards decorated with balloons and such. The principal, masked and gloved with a wrapped gift in hand, got out of his car and approached the graduate. As he congratulated each graduate on earning a diploma, Pomp and Circumstance played, the caravan honked and family members cried. I must admit that I cried too, several times in fact. These students have all weathered a storm. They’ve climbed a mountain that looked too high. The principal pointed each grad’s appreciation to their teachers, without whom they would not have made it. This is not just a finish line, it is their starting line too. Because of these unsung heroes, these grads are starting their next season with choices and hope. As a mainstream teacher I saw, firsthand, that these teachers and staff members choose to do this job that requires relentless patience and grace. There was no stage, no audience, and no guest speaker. However, there were the people who mattered the most; those who have done the heavy lifting. Each graduate had their own special moment to be celebrated. Ray and I believe that there is so much value in seeing the blessing that is right in front of us, even in the midst of a tough climb. This week, there will more caravans in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. I recommend taking a box of tissues for anyone on the route!!A special thank you to the Walton County Sheriff Department for their escort for a good bit of our trip!!
Posted by Ray Sansom for Superintendent of Schools on Wednesday, May 27, 2020