Building Bridges in the Rural Ozarks

One teacher can make the difference in strengthening the fabric of a community.

May 28, 2015 |

The work of Rhonda Singletary (left) and Cyndi Wright (right) illustrates the power of school and community partnerships.

Editor's Note: Lara Strong is the foreign language lab facilitator at West Plains R-7 school (MO). She has been inspired by the work of her colleague, Cyndi Wright, and submitted this essay on the community schooling partnership that Cyndi founded. We are pleased to share Lara's essay as the second feature in our Educator's Voice series. The first feature of the series is available here.

West Plains R-7 school district is building bridges between educators, parents and their children, and the community in West Plains, MO. “The Bridges program helps kids stay in school and to achieve more while in school. By supplying the necessities, such as food, clothing, medical care copays and school supplies, Bridges hopes to keep kids in school and reaching educational benchmarks,” described Bridges Program coordinator Cyndi Wright.

Since its founding two years ago the Bridges Program has served more than 300 kids in West Plains R-7 schools and surrounding rural schools. More than 50 corporate and faith-based organizations and individuals are involved from the local community. “We provide clothes, shoes, glasses, food, medical service for the kids if the students do not have another way to get them; We paid for club dues for the students so the kids can get involved in extra-curricular activities; We provided meal money for school trips, and helped providing household items for burned out victims; We have provided firewood for the students’ families… Basically, we help provide things that kids need to stay in school,” said Cyndi Wright.

Cyndi Wright and Rhonda Singletary are two vital parts of the Bridges Program. Cyndi Wright is the coordinator and the founder of the Bridge Program. Over the years, Cyndi saw the needs of the students and she helped as much as she could. Cyndi started a food bank in her classroom in her 30th year of teaching, which is also the year before she retired from West Plains High School. The food bank was a big success, yet Cyndi realized that she couldn’t meet all the needs. So she worked with West Plains R-7 school district and expanded the food bank to the Bridges Program, which includes West Plains R-7 schools and surrounding rural schools. Rhonda Singletary, the Advisory Board President, helps in all aspects of the program. This is how Cyndi Wright describes her partner: “She has a compassion for kids who are struggling with poverty and other hindrances to education.”

This year the Bridge Program is launching “We’ve Got Your Back” and calling all churches and businesses in the West Plains area to do back to school promotions or giveaways on the Saturday before the beginning of the next school year.

It is never easy to provide a quality education that ensures success for all students, especially when the students are impacted by poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, and housing problems in rural areas. However, Cyndi Wright and Rhonda Singletary along with West Plains R-7 have made the school not just a metal and brick structure, but the bridge that links the community to parents and their children!

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