The idea formed when Mrs. Rushing asked her class one simple question: “What do you think it feels like to be Mr. Broome and Mrs. Byrd?” The seed was planted and students immediately began to grow the plan of how to show the principals they are now part of UA. “UA is a family, so we wanted them to feel welcome when they come to school,” said Grace.
The class spent time researching the principals’ favorite things and created personalized boxes full of items to ensure they felt welcome. Carolina Panthers gear, snacks, candy, and more spilled out of the boxes packed specially for each principal. One student spent hours painting a special canvas for Mr. Broome that now hangs in his office as a constant reminder he is part of Union Academy. “I was completely surprised,” exclaimed Mr. Broome.
But they received something more important than gifts; students developed four color-coded categories of questions to help the principals get to know UA and the students better. Green cards gave them tips about UA; purple cards told them what students like about UA; yellow cards were things they might like to change; and orange cards shared their favorite memory. “They had a chance to get to know us and make a special connection with UA,” stated Sam.
Challenge, Character, and Community have been the mission of UA for more than 20 years. The three C’s are woven into the culture of the school and each is dependent on the other. Teachers like Mrs. Rushing continue to ensure students are taught the importance of UA's mission and are given opportunities to apply what they have learned. “I feel good knowing I showed compassion by including Mr. Broome and Mrs. Byrd,” said Kenley.
“The welcome party made me feel like I am now 'officially' part of the UA family. Being able to spend time with them and have quality conversations to get to know each other better is what helps to build positive, long-lasting relationships. These consistent interactions will be the key to our success as a team,” said Mrs. Byrd.
Students were able to keep the welcome a secret until the principals arrived at the classroom. “I was flooded with emotion when I entered Mrs. Rushing’s classroom and realized what was really going on. I am humbled by the kindness and generosity of these students. I will forever have a connection to each one. This act of kindness serves as a great reminder that the human connection is powerful. Together, we will see this year through,” state Mr. Broome.
Mrs. Rushing explained the welcome was successful because Mr. Broome and Mrs. Byrd know the students were “intentional and personal” in their welcome and that’s a key ingredient when making someone feel part of a group. One student added, “We let them talk about themselves and share who they are with us instead of us just telling them about UA.”
“Making someone feel welcome lets them be comfortable asking questions,” explained Bradlee. Let’s all strive to be intentional in showing good character whether it’s welcoming a new family, letting a car into the drop-off line, or listening to different viewpoints.
-Jennifer Sutton Smith, Communications Director