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The Heart of a Mustang

By Rickie R. Harris

It is no secret that Mustangs take great pride in strong traditions. We strive for excellence in the classroom and on the playing field. Oftentimes, however, our ability to compete athletically overshadows other, even greater attributes. Underneath the pride for school and our drive to be the best, compassion exists. The Heart of the Mustang is large. Our students and staff feel great concern for those going through difficult times and even greater empathy for those who are experiencing tragedy.

This was very evident just a few weeks ago when another Texas school lost a student. The collapse of Alto High School football player Cam’ron Matthews during a Friday night football game strongly touched our students and staff. It was only a very short five years ago that the Mustang family lost a student, Reggie Garrett, following a collapse during a WO-S football game.

Our students, our staff, and our community could feel the anguish, loss, and shock of Alto 150 miles away.

During our time of grief in 2010, our staff and students knew we were thought of and lifted up by others through the large number of paper link chains and notes received from other schools. West Orange – Stark High School was able to drape the football stadium and gymnasium with messages of support from throughout the state.

Upon learning of Cam’ron’s death, WO-S High School journalism teacher Meri Elen Jacobs immediately reached out to our High School campus leadership suggesting that we should reach out to Alto in the same way that others reached out to us.

I am proud to say students from our campuses and many other school districts in our region welcomed the opportunity to let the Alto school community know that we were also thinking of them. Thank you to all who embraced this project. A special thank you to Mustang alum, parent, and community member Tony Dallas for delivering these heartfelt messages to Alto.

Reaching out to Alto is only one example of the hearts of Mustangs. Our Mustangs, big and small, participate often in activities that build community, partnerships, and citizenship.

This past month at West Orange – Stark Middle School, our students have been collecting “Pennies for Patients.” The project benefits patients of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This is a service project in which our students have participated for several years and have cumulatively raised more than $2000.

Students at all of our campuses are eager to give and help others. In nine weeks of school this year, our students are advocating for the environment by recycling aluminum and participating in beach cleanups. Others are collecting canned goods and “Pennies for Socks” for distribution during the holiday season. One of our students recently gave his family pet to an elderly gentleman who had been missing and searching for his lost dog. Many of our High School students are participating in campus blood drives.

These actions speak volumes. From Head Start to the Senior Class of 2016, our students are considerate, generous, and kind. They have immense hearts and are eager to contribute to communities in need. Working within our campus systems with classmates, parents, and community, we are experiencing life lessons and developing youth who will use heart and mind to make a positive and meaningful impact on others.

As contemporary author John Maxwell said, “One is too small a number to achieve greatness.”

Go Mustangs!

Rickie R. Harris is the Superintendent at West Orange – Cove CISD.