A Week in Weldon

A Week in Weldon

This year's MSP Spring Break trip took me and other scholars to the rural town of Weldon, North Carolina where students and staff provided one-on-one math tutoring and instruction to 5th through 8th graders at Weldon Middle School. On the surface, Weldon is a small community of approximately 1,600 people within the larger Halifax County, which is the only county in North Carolina to be balancing a division of three different school districts. This division is not simply unique in its existence but also in how this division works within a present-day ignorance of the Brown v. Board of Education's decision from 64 years ago - a division unique enough to warrant open lawsuits at the hands of the NAACP to fight for integration. The communities of Halifax County struggle enough economically without the added pressures of county funds being divided three different ways across unnecessary lines. These economic pressures have placed a large burden on Weldon City Schools' administrators and educators to be balanced with the already stigmatized attitudes held towards their students. Weldon is a community floating within a river of assumptions and misconceptions, and this river remains turbulent with the institutions that are defended to keep a near stunting inequality in place.

All children, no matter their background or socioeconomic status, are deserving of a quality education. All children deserve to be heard, seen, and understood within a classroom. All children deserve to be validated and reassured in their abilities to succeed. While most will agree with these statements, very little is being done to ensure that these remain practiced truths within urban and rural school communities on a larger systemic level. While working with the 7th grade students, I relived my own experiences with a system that was supposed to help facilitate my success. I was reminded that no matter the efforts of an amazing teacher, there will be children who slip through the cracks more often than we'd like to imagine. I had the opportunity to work with a boy in the 7th grade math class who expressed that all his life he had felt passed along by other math teachers. He told me that he wants to understand, but no one had bothered to help him get there.

Now, this is not a unique narrative, and it is not one restricted to economically struggling rural or urban communities of color either. It's a narrative I once carried myself. The only difference is that I had the privilege of access to resources for help outside of my center of learning. It is a common understanding that students who attend schools in impoverished urban or rural areas have less access to resources and opportunity. However, having that knowledge is very different from experiencing the results of that disparity, as was the case with the MSP scholars on this trip. Educational equity is an issue that is close to many of our fellow Morrill Scholars, and I believe that this experience did not only place their passions closer to that issue but also exposed them to a perspective outside the commonly discussed struggling urban community.

I'd like to end my overview of this trip with what the students of Weldon want outsiders to understand about them. These kids are just like any others. They love their school, they love their community, and they work hard and play hard just like anyone else. They aren't loud, dumb, unfocused, or a lost cause. They are tired of being viewed as less than white children or kids who live in wealthier places. They are tired of having to constantly prove themselves above what people think they know about them. They want us to really experience things before we pass judgement on them and to stop talking about things that we don't understand. Weldon is their home, they love it and the people within it, and believe me when I say that experiencing the love of this family will have you calling it home, too.

Written by Tori Branch
Tori is a 1st year Sports Industry Major and French and African American Studies minor on the pre-law track. She is a member of the Leadership Development team and is also Diversity Chair for Drackett Tower's Hall Council E-Board. She also volunteers with Buckeyes Inspire to help mentor High School seniors and juniors on the college application process and financial aid options.