If not now, when?

What is lost, cannot be regained, but what is left, may still be saved.

The current education reform that has been presented to the county over the past two weeks has certainly caught the attention of the people.

It’s worrisome that the topic was not at the forefront of everyone’s minds prior to this decision.

Education reform is never an easy pill to swallow. It is a difficult challenge for faculty, parents and, of course, the students, and believe it or not, even the administrators and committee members making the decisions.

I personally can attest for a few of those involved that have children in the district; this process was not easy, but was necessary.

With education budgets tightening more and more across the nation, school districts are having to make tough decisions on where money is invested as well as the value of that investment. I understand that, and most people do.

Unfortunately, I will not be entertaining you with a breakdown of my take on the reform, but rather on how to affect future decisions like the one made by the committee. It is our responsibility, as parents and members of the community to not chase the past, but rather strengthen the future.

For nine years, I have been fortunate enough to spend my weekends in the fall covering high school football for the Times Observer. I am a 2005 graduate of Sheffield High School, and currently reside in the valley, and most of my coverage has been of the Wolverines. Therefore, when it was announced last year that Youngsville High School was not going to have a varsity football team due to low numbers, I made it a point when having discussions with parents and community members from the Sheffield area, to highlight the fact that this should be considered a warning to not just their football program, but all sports.

Despite having a football co-op with Abraxas — a juvenile detention facility, the Sheffield participation numbers the last couple of seasons have been frighteningly low. A program that was originally designed to support the football team, has become one that is now relied on to field a team. I fear that mine, and others like the former Sheffield head coaching staff’s persistence in encouraging participation and community support has fallen short.

However, maybe we have fallen short on saving programs outside of sports.

Why have we, up to this point, handled our children’s futures in a manner of which we feel or act powerless?

We are not powerless. It is matter of maximizing our potential as members of our community to echo the passions and dreams of our children long before a committee could potentially affect them.

We have more power now as a people to voice our opinions than ever before.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Snap Chat are just five of the newest platforms people can share their views with mass amounts of people on the way things are working within their school district. The digital revolution has enabled individuals to become united for a cause within moments as opposed to days, weeks or months.

Where the problem lies, is not with the availability of a voice, but rather the timing of it. We as parents cannot express our opinions on education reform or lost athletics programs after the fact, and expect change. The process of making those decisions in the first place takes time, and the process to reverse them could take even longer. It is our responsibility to ensure that, if we feel art, music, football, soccer, softball, or any other program that is under threat of being restructured, diminished, or eliminated, to get involved early on, before the talks even occur. You may feel that is challenging, but nothing worth fighting for ever comes easy.

Parents need to take advantage of every opportunity available to support the expansion of our children’s interests and reassure the financial foundation of it as well. Don’t let their enthusiasm and aspirations live and die in the halls of a school, or under the rule of a district.

If your child loves something, explore offseason camps, clinics, classes, workshops or leagues. If money is an issue, look to the internet. There are videos giving advice, lessons, and practicing tips on everything from playing the piano to mastering a full-court press. Furthermore, continue to keep your child interested and active in their programs. There will be times they struggle or have conflicts with those around them, but we cannot simply allow them to walk away from something they love because it became problematic or stressful.

Or lacked support.

Financially, we know in recent years more than ever, that the funding for athletics and the arts seem to be something that at the very least is a constant topic of discussion. In my opinion, with no insider knowledge, I would not be surprised if a majority of to all school athletic costs are put primarily on the parents and/or school’s boosters in the near future.

I encourage parents, participants, and community members alike, to be proactive. Go beyond the traditional or annual fundraisers. All grade levels must work together to support one another to preserve the future of programs and maintain the current standards set.

Not everything can be funded solely by the community or booster programs, but being prepared will certainly ease the impact a potential budgetary decision down the road could have on our children.

If your daughter wants to play softball for example, there are many opportunities — You just have to pay for them/raise the money and organize opportunities yourself.

I am personally thankful every day that my mother and family have always pushed me to keep writing. Had they not, you would not be reading this now, nor would I have the honor of working with and befriending some of the great writers at the Times Observer. I can attest that I did not utilize every opportunity I could have, and that is time and experience that I will never have a chance at again.

What it comes down to, and where I feel I will leave my point, is this simple yet famed quote by Hillel the Elder:

“If I am not for myself, who is for me? And being for my own self, what am I? And if not now, when?”

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