Many high school graduates in small town America are ready to leave “this small town.” They are frustrated with classes, rules and preparing for the future. They can only imagine their futures somewhere else where there is more to do. The bright-eyed 18-year-olds are ready to sow their wild oats and experience life. At least that was me in 2003.
I left and never looked back… well until I got homesick or a holiday came around. I started my career, got married and had kiddos. Somewhere in the middle of sowing my wild oats, I landed back in “this small town.”
I lived in Arkansas for most of my time away from home. Arkansas = AState in the upper east corner and RazorbackNation in much of the rest. There is a sense of pride in Arkansas that I never felt in Missouri. I didn’t know why and I chalked it up to the southern culture.
My undergraduate degree is in journalism/public relations. One of the key theories I learned is, “perception is reality.” My graduate degree is in community and economic development. One of the key pieces I learned from the expensive 36-credit-hour-programs is that communities must stay true to itself in order to thrive. So, if you pare “perception is reality” and "staying true to itself", then you must stay true to what you are perceived to be and you will thrive.
West Plains is perceived as a community focused on family. That seems pretty boring until you attend the Zizzer high school homecoming football game. West Plains stayed true its perception and came together to focus on family at an American Tradition and hometown past time. You don’t have to be a football fan to appreciate the evening.
We have an award-winning band that was accompanied by the drill team and cheer team. There was the homecoming court dressed in their best. Not to mention parents in the concession stand and organizations like the Kiwana’s Club that supported the school district with their own booths. The Ozark Medical Center had a tailgate style BBQ on the softball field right outside of the stadium. There were rally towels being sold and signs were made. Air Evac landed a helicopter on the field to present the game ball.
Yes, this was slightly over the top for a high school football game. However, this isn’t about football. This is about the kids and families in our community. This is about Charlie saying, “look Mama, the band is coming!” This is about the emcee announcing to a few thousand people where the homecoming candidates want to attend college as they walked on the field. This is about teamwork on the field and community UNITY in the stadium.
Twelve years ago, I was ready to get out of “this small town.” Today, “this small town” is mine. I am Missouri Proud. I get it Arkansas.
And no, I’m not blogging the score. It doesn’t matter to me.