Classes Begin Monday
By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for the Grapeland Early Learning Center (ELC) on Friday afternoon, Aug. 2, signifying the ELC would be open for business bright and early on Monday morning, Aug. 5, beginning at 6:45 am.
Prior to actual ribbon cutting, a ceremony was held to commemorate the official opening. Grapeland ISD Board Member Kendra Huff led off the program and welcomed the approximately 75 guests in attendance.
“Welcome to the Grapeland Early Learning Center. What an exciting addition this is. My name is Kendra Huff and I’m a current school board member of Grapeland ISD and I also serve on the Grapeland ELC board, as well. This community is my home and I’m proud to be a part of it,” she said.
“When we first had the idea to add a child care facility to our school,” she continued, “the board view was to be able to provide this benefit to our teachers, our staff and our community. Through lots of hard work, we are off to a great start and I’m eager to see it grow. Thank you for being here this evening.”
Elementary Principal Cassie Satterwhite was next and provided the invocation. Once the prayer had concluded, she asked GISD Superintendent Don Jackson to provide a few comments to the audience.
“This was a vision by a group of people. Our school board is awesome and they are not pleased with the status quo. They have high expectations for our school district, for our students and for our community. This is one of the things that was discussed as I was coming in. I can’t tell you who originated the idea. I don’t know. But, I know the group of people who took upon the idea,” Jackson said.
When the district began the move from the old elementary school to the new elementary, Jackson said, the initial thought was to demolish all of the older buildings. However, he explained, the idea of having a child care center was brought up to serve the faculty, staff and community.
“We have some people who took this dream, this vision, and made it a reality,” he said.
As he continued, Jackson introduced who he asserted was one of, if not the driving force behind bringing the idea to fruition – Development Manager for the project and GISD Board VP Melissa Cobb.
“Seeing this project through from the start to the finish – it’s been eventful and it’s been exciting. The vision was there, like Mr. Jackson said, and the reality was coming. We are there now. First, I would like to thank our superintendent, Don Jackson and the GISD school board for their full support in bringing this to our community. We needed it. That is evidenced by the 45 students we have enrolled as of today,” Cobb said.
She also thanked her father, Tim Howard, “… who helped manage many of the sub-contractors through this project. He met with people day-in and day-out through the bidding process. He was always there to troubleshoot the problems I couldn’t handle. I would also like to thank my husband and my children for the many nights and weekends we spent up here working. We called this ‘making memories to make a difference.’”
Cobb also expressed her appreciation to Terry Howard for his work on the signage decorating the outside and inside of the building.
Before she concluded, the board VP introduced ELC Administrator Christie Hill who said she was excited about the center’s opening on Monday morning.
“We had a packed house last night (for parent orientation) and tonight we have one again. This community – this is something the community most definitely needed. When I was approached I said let me pray about it and God said ‘Christie, this is where you need to go,’” Hill said.
After introducing the staff of the ELC, Hill yielded the podium to GISD Board President James Martin.
“Just to see this building is so awesome,” Martin said. “I know all the work Melissa, along with all the people she mentioned, have put into this. To me, this was Melissa’s baby and she made it happen. It’s great to have a board that is so active in the community and cares so much about the kids. To see this thing finished after it was just an idea, a year or so ago, is just awesome. It really does fill a gap. In a way, it makes Grapeland feel complete. It makes us feel whole. We can take care of children all the way from six weeks to the 12th grade,” he said.
With that, the crowd moved outside for the ribbon cutting and the opening of a brand new avenue of education for the Grapeland community.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.