OAKMAN — Oakman Middle School is one of 200 schools across the state of Alabama that has been selected as an Alabama Bicentennial School and is the only school in Walker County to earn the …
OAKMAN — Oakman Middle School is one of 200 schools across the state of Alabama that has been selected as an Alabama Bicentennial School and is the only school in Walker County to earn the distinction.
The announcement was made in the Old House chamber of the state Capitol by Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday, Aug. 3. All named bicentennial schools will each receive a $2,000 grant to implement a project in their communities.
Community involvement is part of the Alabama Bicentennial Schools initiative launched by Ivey in December 2017, and encourages schools to take part in the Alabama 200 Bicentennial celebration — a three-year period leading up to Alabama's 200th birthday on Dec. 14, 2019.
In order to qualify as an official Alabama Bicentennial School, all schools in Alabama were encouraged to submit proposals earlier this year about a project they would like to implement to enhance community connection.
Oakman Middle School has an ultimate goal to create a community pantry in the town for those less fortunate to anonymously have access to free food and other needs. The formal name of their project is Community Pantry: Encouraging Good Citizenship in the School and Community.
Rose Simpson, a teacher at Oakman Middle School, is spearheading the project.
"We are excited about Oakman Middle School being chosen as an Alabama Bicentennial School," Simpson said in a press release from the Governor's Office. "The support we have received from the school staff, administrators, community leaders and community has been outstanding. We look forward to working together as a community to implement this project."
Oakman Mayor Cory Franks said he is thrilled the school received a grant from the governor, and he looks forward to working closely with Simpson and the school's students to achieve their goal.
"We're going to work with her for placement of the food pantry and help keep it stocked on a regular basis, as well as getting the word out to people in the community about the food pantry," Franks said. "I'm just honored and happy that since I came in office I have had a really good partnership with the schools in Oakman on projects that are beneficial to our community as a whole."
No time frame has been announced for when the community pantry will be available for citizens.
Oakman Town Clerk Lisa Lockhart said they want the pantry to be in an easily accessible location, while also respecting the privacy of community members who need assistance.
She said people call town hall often needing food, clothing and other basic necessities.
"This is a great need in our community," she said.
Oakman Middle School Principal Chris Walton said he is happy the school will be able to participate in the state's bicentennial celebration in an official capacity and make an impact in the community.
"I am excited to be the principal of a school chosen to represent the 200 years of Alabama becoming a state," Walton said. "Mrs. Simpson has a great project planned for our school and community, and I am proud of the initiative she took in getting our school chosen for this prestigious grant and award."
In addition to the 200 schools named as bicentennial schools, 56 schools in Alabama received an honorable mention and a $500 grant. Schools were honored through a review process that included local educations, community leaders and private citizens.
There were nearly 400 entrants vying to receive the bicentennial distinction.
Winston County High School, Meek High School and Haleyville High School in Winston County were named official bicentennial schools as well, and Meek Elementary School and Lynn Elementary School received honorable mentions.
"The Bicentennial Schools Initiative is not only a special way for students to take part in celebrating our 200 years of statehood, but also an opportunity for them to engage within their communities," Ivey said in the press release. "It fosters love for the state they all call home, and it instills in them the courage to make a difference."