BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – Thomas Jefferson taught, “If a nation expects to be free and ignorant at the same time, it expects what never was and never will be. Where the press is free and every man is able to read, there, and there alone, democracy is safe.” The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Old Unicoi Trail Chapter, brought this founding father’s words to life, Feb. 15. The DAR Chapter met at the Union County Community Center to “Shine a Light on Literacy.” The Chapter’s National Good Citizen for 2018-2019 set the stage for the exploration of literacy and local opportunities through Ferst Readers to promote literacy in the youngest of our children.
Hannah Cruse of Morganton, a Fannin County High School senior, was chosen as the schools’ NSDAR Good Citizen. Hannah was chosen over other students for being dependable, serving her community, providing leadership, and being a patriot. Tom Orchanian Jr. was chosen the Good Citizen of Union County High and Julia Chinkhan was selected by Towns County High. Orchanian and Chinkhan will receive recognition at a later date. All three students entered the optional Scholarship contest and wrote an essay answering the question, “How would you energize America’s youth to fully engage as effective citizens? Why is that important?”
According to DAR, students did not have the topic in advance of writing. Cruse’s essay read, “It is such an honor to live in a country where intellectual prosperity and self-motivation has the potential to allow you to find the greatest version of yourself… to be overcomers of one’s story….” Cruse, a very active member of her school and community, described two barriers that prevent youth from being civic-minded. The first is literacy. The Fannin senior shared her experiences helping struggling student readers who can fall up to ten grades below their current grade level.
“The ideas or concepts that America’s youth learn from books have the power to energize them, allow them to find their values and engage as effective citizens,” Cruse said, calling for access to free books for young people. Cruse additionally quoted Frederick Douglas who said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
As called for by Cruse, free access to books is happening in the Union County Ferst Readers Program. Towns and Fannin counties also have the program. Janice Cochran, leader of the Union and Towns County programs, provided program information and displayed books.
“Significant research confirms the relationship between children who read or are read to and their ability to prosper and advance academically,” Regent Annette Bomar Hopgood of Old Unicoi Trail DAR said. “According to their website, Ferst Readers addresses one of the most basic issues of childhood literacy – ensuring the availability of quality books in the home so that parents can read to their child. Children from birth to five years old who are enrolled in the Ferst Reader Program receive a new book every month until their 5th birthday. That’s up to 60 books. Books are made available through donations. New mothers at Union General Hospital are encouraged to register their newborns. Parents are also encouraged to read to children from birth and engage in related activities.”
On behalf of the Chapter, Regent Hopgood recognized volunteers of Union County Ferst Readers with a Chapter award for shining the light on literacy in Union County. More importantly, volunteers in Union, Towns, and Fannin were presented the National Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award. The Chapter is limited to two awards per year. The award recognizes worthy individuals and organizations for outstanding voluntary service.
The Chapter has honored S.A.F.E., the Women’s Enrichment Center, and the Tri-county Native American Initiative for the “We Are Still Here” bronze monument in Meeks Park. Award-winner Cruse believes depression is the second barrier that limits young peoples’ engagement as effective. She promotes the Happiness Rocks campaign that shares basic principles that when employed “would allow America’s youth to fully engage as a citizen, simply by being who they are, and living our their “Pursuit of Happiness.”
It was announced by Benetta Cook, Chair, Blairsville, that criteria for the Chapter’s Grant-In-Aid for seniors in Towns, Union and Fannin counties will be distributed to high school senior counselors this month. Interested parents or students must contact their school counselor about the five-hundred-dollar grant. Additionally, the Chapter observed Georgia Day, Feb, 12, by displaying personal books on Georgia, it’s people and places. Sandie Harbuck, Chapter Librarian, accepted donations of $175 from Daughters for the society’s state and national libraries. The Sons of the American Revolution was represented by David Cook, past president of the Blue Ridge Mountains Chapter.
The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution promotes historic preservation, education, and patriotism. For information on Chapter membership or to attend meetings of Old Unicoi Trail Chapter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: Hannah Cruse, Fannin County’s Good Citizen DAR award winner.