Quite Thought Full; Hometown pride found anew

QUITETHOUGHTFULLBy Katie Walsh | Opinions Editor

Most everyone has a bit of pride in his or her hometown. No matter where you are from or how far away you are now, there’s a little something in you that will spark a fire to defend some element about the place you grew up.

For me, it’s the Outdoor School Program at Hashawha Environmental Center, a mainstay of the Carroll County public education, now being threatened due to budget cuts.

I may not always be loud and proud of the town I call home. More often than not, I tell inquiring minds that I’m from Baltimore, even though I haven’t lived there for more than a decade. Home for me is the small city of Westminster, Md., an agriculturally active city about 40 minutes northwest of the home of my beloved Inner Harbor.

There are some things about my hometown, though, that I can’t sit back and quietly watch change while I’m 250 miles away.

I may have stopped listening to country music and I may not like to explain that the drive to my high school involves passing cornfields and rolling hills of grain. That being said, the people of Westminster and the education I got there are incredible, no doubt about it.

One unforgettable element to the Carroll County public school system is Outdoor School. In sixth grade, students went on an overnight camping trip to Hashawha. Everyone knew that sixth grade was the best year ever because you got to go on a camping trip for school credit. For five days and four nights, you bunked with your friends and you learned about everything you could possibly learn about the environment around you. You wrote letters home to your family about just how much fun you were having and that you didn’t want to go back to regular school.

Night hikes, watching hundreds of bats fly through the night air and an epic survivor game obstacle course to teach students about ecosystems were the norm for each crop of sixth graders. For all these reasons and more, Outdoor School was undeniably one of the best experiences in my education.

Outdoor School taught you to appreciate the wonders of nature through interaction with it, how to respect the earth through environmentally friendly tactics like composting while you earned community service hours, a graduation requirement by the State of Maryland. A lucky few had the chance to go back and re-experience it their senior year of high school as counselors.

For those five simple days, your classmates and you were on the same level playing field. No teasing, no bullying, everyone just trying to keep up on the hikes and trails together.

Now, four years removed from the Carroll County school system and 10 years after living it up in the mud of Hashawha, state budget cuts have the CC Board of Education considering cutting this beloved tradition out of my hometown schooling. I may hate admitting that I have attended and enjoyed a tractor pull at the Ag Center, but this is one thing I will defend for my hometown. Budget cuts at the state and county level are causing the CCPS Board of Education to consider cutting Outdoor School from the program along with 150 jobs in order to maintain adequate funding for the schools, according to a Carroll County Times article back on Jan. 15.

Budget cuts are occurring everywhere, but this is one program that I refuse to witness get thrown away like it’s nothing. It’s a tradition in our school system, our hometown and county that can’t die due to a lack of funding.

And my fellow citizens and students in Carroll County agree. A petition asking the Board of Education to not cut the program has received more than 4,700 electronic signatures.

If there is ever an issue or a practice being threatened in your hometown, no matter how far away from it you are, don’t sit back and let things happen. You may surprise yourself at the fight you’re willing to put forth for something that you care about.

Katie Walsh is a senior English and philosophy major and can be reached at walshk2@duq.edu.