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Back to school: Activities help celebrate our communities

Commentary

The yellow buses that have been slumbering all summer will roar back to life this week, and quiet classrooms will echo with voices once again as students go back to school.

And as the school bells ring, entire towns will come together as well.

Schools provide the populations they serve with much more than diplomas. They give us a shared identity, a shared history, and a collective community.

Politicians may sometimes talk about the possibility of consolidating school districts; just as school boards may painfully discuss closing a facility. When that happens, both entities face a backlash of emotion and concern, with citizens fighting to save their schools, even amidst challenges of budget constraints and declining populations.

We recognize one another by our team colors: black and orange, blue and gold, maroon and white … the uniforms worn by the student body are reflected by hundreds more in the stands at athletic contests and on the streets of our cities and towns.

Perhaps nowhere is the hometown-local school pride more evident than during high school football season.

It could be the excitement of a new school year: a clean slate full of possibilities.

Or it could be the many aspects of our society that come together under the lights on Friday nights: on the field, along the sidelines, around the track and in the stands.

The activity surrounding the gridiron is almost as fun to witness as the game itself.

Kids play catch in the end zones; packs of girls (and packs of boys) roam around the track, hardly aware of the athletic action; parents and friends catch up in the bleachers or while waiting in line at the concession stand; cheerleaders and musicians perform and add to the festivities.

The sights and sounds are unmistakable and unforgettable; the result is an experience that is almost timeless: a scene that has played out for generations.

From ticket takers and concession volunteers to officials, managers and trainers, emergency personnel and administrators: a huge effort behind the scenes comes together in support of the home team. And while football may often be the focus, the community is much bigger than any one sport.

We live in a world where we know many young people are in pain — struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness; many are filled with self-doubt, magnified by images of perfection on social media.

For some, going back to school is more frightening than exciting, filled with anxiety instead of anticipation.

But there is hope in the community spirit that comes alive this time of year, as evidenced under the lights on Friday nights.

As the school year begins, so does another opportunity to practice … not just sports or music … but also kindness and inclusion.

Wishing student-athletes, and all of our communities a wonderful school year!

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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