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!

Previous ALL STORIES Next
Group of Ozarks Teacher Corps participants.

Ozarks Teacher Corps: Rural Place-based Learning in Missouri

April 15, 2024

We joined Teton Science Schools, Community Foundation of the Ozarks, and several RSC Grants in Place veteran teachers at a collaborative, rural teacher corps training in the Missouri Ozarks Hub. The future is bright for these aspiring rural educators!

Regional Hubs, Power of Partnerships, Missouri Ozarks, Place-Based Education, Rural Teacher Corps

Group of students from Monmouth College in winter gear standing in a semi-circle with snow covered trees behind them.

TARTANS Take to Training in the Tetons

April 8, 2024

A unique trip brought together two RSC hub partners for intentional learning, memorable experiences, and crucial relationship building in the beautiful snow-covered Teton Mountains.

Regional Hubs, Power of Partnerships, Illinois, Northern Rockies, Place-Based Education, Rural Teacher Corps, Gratitude

Sophia Elswick, Music Teacher at Stark County High School.

Sophia Elswick - Toulon, IL

March 28, 2024

A music teacher at Stark County High School in rural Illinois, shares her story about finding community and herself while teaching in rural communities.

Power of Partnerships, Rural Teacher Corps, Teacher Profile, Rural Resilience