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Pep talk launches new school year

August 22, 2000

Pep talk launches new school year



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Crystal KuykendallTo educate America's youth, school employees must become "true merchants of hope," a Potomac, Md., lawyer and former teacher told Washington County Board of Education employees during a convocation ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

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The annual convocation held at North Hagerstown High School is the school district's traditional kickoff to the school year, which this year begins Aug. 28.

Crystal Kuykendall told more than 3,000 teachers, instructional aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, secretaries, maintenance workers and other staff members that hope gives meaning to peoples' lives.

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"When there is no hope we can expect the worst. Without hope there can be anger. Without hope there can be bitterness. Without hope there can be alienation and rage," she said.

Students need to feel that they are expected to do well and that their teachers and school staff care about them. If they don't they can lose direction, said Kuykendall, who was paid $6,000 to speak at two sessions Tuesday, according to Deputy Superintendent Theresa Flak.

"When children determine that they won't make it on life's high road they take life's low road. We lose too many children to that low road," she said.

Just as students must commit themselves to their studies, school staffers must give their jobs their all, she said.

"We cannot bring out the best in children unless we are willing to give the best of ourselves," she said.

When the school bell rings, school personnel must put aside any preconceptions about socio-economic status, and students who come from dysfunctional homes shouldn't "be victimized or penalized for their upbringing," she advised.

"Our differences only get in the way if you let them," said Kuykendall, who challenged teachers to come up with three favorable attributes to describe each of their students at the end of each semester.

Kuykendall urged the school staff not to give up on slower students, because children learn and grow at different rates.

"There will be some who stumble out of the blocks. Some kids will not come into their own until adolescence," she said.

"Sometimes we have to give more of ourselves because some kids will need more," said Kuykendall.

Kuykendall said she was a slow starter and couldn't write or recite the alphabet when she started school. With the love and support of her teachers, she quickly caught up, and graduated from high school at age 16 and college at 19, she said.

Every student has potential, "I don't care if their IQ is room temperature," Kuykendall said.

The event started with a musical performance by the Williamsport High School Sophisti'cats. Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. and others spoke briefly before Kuykendall gave her address.

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