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Students offered purpose

Publisher’s note: The Erwin Record is proud to partner with UCHS Principal Chris Bogart to provide this informative addition to the newspaper. Bogart’s column will be a voice for him as well as highlighting various departments and faculty.
This year at Unicoi County High School we have a simple, three-word theme: “Pride, Passion, Purpose.”
As we begin to use this portion of the newspaper to provide more information about our high school, I thought we would start with the last “P” in our theme, “Purpose.” As educators we see our students work each day on various tasks designed to increase their knowledge base. They work to achieve grades in order to pass courses or prepare for college.
However, for us the focus this year has been to try to help our students look beyond simply doing work to pass or make good grades. While these things obviously are worthwhile objectives, we want our students to see school as more of means to an end rather than just making grades. The students in our community need to work with a sense of purpose in order to be more prepared for their lives after high school.
Our belief at UCHS is that students who have a definitive purpose in their lives will be able to maintain their focus and drive to learn more. Too many times we see students wander through school without any real sense of where it is they are going with their lives. Because of this lack of focus students tend to be taken in different directions far too easily.
Our students face many more distractions today in life than at any other time in history. When I was a teenager the biggest distraction going was probably playing Atari or cruising town. Now the amount of activities, technology, and access to social media is staggering.
In order to maintain a focus on progressing in life, we believe it is imperative students know where they want to go in life. We want our students to develop an understanding of the need to work toward a goal in life. Whether it be a specific college they want to attend, a vocation they wish to begin right after high school, or a career, we want students to be working in a direction.
At one point in “Alice in Wonderland,” the Cat asks Alice, “Where are you going?” When Alice replies that she does not know where she wants to go, the Cat explains that it really doesn’t matter then which direction she goes. The point is this dialogue has relevance for our students today. If they do not have a purpose then it really doesn’t matter which path they take.
As parents and community members we want to encourage our students to think about more than just today, or even tomorrow. We need them to think about their futures. They do not have to know exactly what they want to do when they leave high school, but students should have a general idea. They should work with a purpose of achieving success.
Many of us changed majors in college once we got deeper into the courses we were studying. Sometimes we decided we liked another major more. But the point was we had a purpose we were working toward. We were going beyond today.
Washington Irving once said, “Great minds have purpose, others have wishes. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortunes; but great minds rise above them.” Times are tough for many today. Our students are not immune to these pressures and struggles. It is tough to be a teenager these days, much tougher than it has been in the past.
We believe that students are more apt to persevere through these struggles when they have a purpose in their lives. This way they always know that no matter how tough a situation is, they have something greater to focus on in life. Too many times problems and distractions derail our dreams.
But as Irving said, great minds with purpose can rise above the struggles. With a purpose, our students can rise above the struggles of today in order to achieve the greatness of tomorrow.
Program Spotlight
Science Department
Teachers Working in the Program: Debbie Bennett, Stacia Crumbley, Michelle Durham, Chad Roller and Diana Tucker.
Courses Related to the Program: Biology I, II, Chemistry I, II, Physics, Physical Science, Ecology, AP Chemistry.
Possible Careers Related to the Program: The top-10 paying are environment scientists, hudrogogists, geoscientists, medical scientists, biochemists, biophysicists, stomspheric scientists, materials scientists, physicists, astronomers, and biological scientists.
Clubs and Activities Related to the Program: Trout in the Classroom (Raising rainbow trout from eggs to release stage).
Skills Students Learn from Participating in the Program: History of Science, Application of Science, Critical and Analytical Thinking, Math Skills, Research, Experimental Design.

Meet the Faculty:
Karla Keesecker
Year you began teaching at UCHS: I began my teaching career at Sullivan North High School in 1998 and joined the faculty at UCHS in 2003.
What is your favorite aspect of the content you teach?: As a media specialist, I feel the best part of the job is recommending a book to a student. The absolute most rewarding part of what we do is when that student returns, and tells you they loved it and wants to read more!
What is your best high school memory?: I honestly do not have one particular favorite memory of high school. But, that said, each and every day I spent with the UCHS Band was a truly wonderful experience that I still treasure today.
What is your favorite food?: As most of my friends know, I never met a doughnut I didn’t like, but my actual favorite food is chicken spaghetti.
Why are you proud of UCHS?: There are so many reasons to be proud of UCHS. We have an amazing administration, faculty and staff, but most importantly we have amazing students. I am so proud of what our students accomplish inside and outside the classroom. I have met some of the most talented, intelligent and well-rounded students in my teaching career. I feel we have the best students in East Tennessee and that is something to be very proud of!