First lady visits county
by Briana Webster & Rachel Davis
May 15, 2014 | 1383 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama’s First Lady Dianne Bentley visited Parrish Elementary School and Daybreak in Jasper Wednesday morning. Pictured is Bentley looking on while students read in groups in their classroom. Daily Mountain Eagle - Briana Webster
Alabama’s First Lady Dianne Bentley visited Parrish Elementary School and Daybreak in Jasper Wednesday morning. Pictured is Bentley looking on while students read in groups in their classroom. Daily Mountain Eagle - Briana Webster
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Alabama’s First Lady Dianne Bentley stopped in Walker County Wednesday morning as part of her #FirstLady500 tour, visiting Parrish Elementary School and Jasper’s Daybreak.

Arriving at approximately 10 a.m., Bentley was greeted by Parrish Elementary Principal Chris Walton. Walton and other school employees navigated Bentley through the school and popped in on different classes that were in session.

“I want you to do one thing for me this summer: Read,” Bentley told the young students. “Y’all keep reading this summer so you’ll be ready next fall.” 

As part of the 2014 Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, Bentley teams with Scholastic each year to donate 500 books to five deserving schools. Parrish Elementary was one of the five schools selected that received 100 books and a special visit from the governor’s wife.

“We get a map, and I like different regions of the state, so I can go and see what’s there and see what schools are doing and their programs, and also give them good books to read. I just want to teach children the love of reading, and so that’s why I choose different schools to go to,” she said with a smile. “I think with all the media, we’re losing the love for the written word. As a child, I always had a book with me. You can’t always have technology with you.”

Walton was pleased with Bentley’s visit and hopes it will bring more recognition to the elementary school.

“Literacy is important, and reading and writing is the fabric of everything we try to do in every subject. We’re the best kept secret in Walker County, as far as school-wise. This is a great school with great students, great faculty and parent support,” Walton said. “ ... I thought the visit went great. I thought our kids were very respectful. She came in, she talked to the kids and the teachers. It was very forthcoming.

“She related well to what they were doing, and she knew when she walked in the classrooms the questions to ask to prompt them, so I thought it was a great session,” he continued. “The kids were very excited. I think it’s great for our school and for our community to have people recognize us for the things we do.”

Before reading to second-grade students in the school’s library, Bentley said, “My goal is to teach them to love to read, to want to read, to read things they enjoy so when they read things that they have to read in school, they will still be good readers. Books are wonderful, and I want to teach them to learn to love books.” 

After lunch at Black Rock Bistro, Bentley toured Daybreak’s shelter.

Daybreak, opened in 1986, provides emergency housing for women who are fleeing domestic violence situations. Bentley has committed herself to preventing domestic violence and helping victims escape, protect themselves and rebuild their lives.

Members of the staff, board of directors and women currently in the shelter spoke with Bentley during her tour.

Bentley is trying to tour all the domestic violence shelters in the state and has been able to visit a number of them already. She called Daybreak “one of the best shelters I have seen.”

She also spent time talking with the staff about their biggest needs or concerns, including the need for a safe room or tornado-safe area for those in the shelter during severe weather.

They also talked to Bentley about challenges they face with transportation as the women try to find jobs to help them get on their feet. The women often don’t have a vehicle of their own, and there are times when the shelter only has one staff member on duty. This means the women either have to walk, which can be especially dangerous if their abuser is looking for them, or they have to rely on someone else giving them a ride. In order to qualify for housing programs to continue their path to freedom, the women must maintain employment.

Bentley thanked those who are involved with the shelter for the work they have done, and continue to do, for domestic violence victims in the state.

Anyone who is a victim of abuse or needs help can call the Daybreak Crisis Line at 205-384-1157 or the Alabama domestic abuse hotline which will send callers to Daybreak or the nearest resource to them at 1-800-650-6522.