For the first time in the school's history, Perry County Central has offered a Character Education class for its seniors. The class, while not learning from the typical textbook or lecture session, actually learns from action and experience.
The class is headed by three teachers: Polly Perkins, Alexa Boggs, and Rebecca Dobson. In essence, the goal of the class is to teach these first fifteen students about basic human values such as honesty, courage, and freedom. In such a vain, the students decided to take up a service learning project in which the students adopt U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Thus far, the class has adopted twenty-one soldiers.
This sort of adoption is not the typical adoption of a child to a family, rather these adoptions are allowing for American troops to know that they are not forgotten while they serve their country, and all the while the students are learning about the core values that make up the ideal of civilization.
The students' initial contact with soldiers was first by written letter. Eventually, five soldiers responded, and the communication between student and soldier began. Periodically, the students would send small items to the soldiers that they might have requested. Mrs. Perkins noted that some of the items they continuously request are beef jerky, chap stick, and playing cards, which are all items that the students are more than happy to send.
Billy Campbell, a student in the class, stated that the class experience has helped to give him knowledge of a culture that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. The soldiers are sending the Perry Central students items in return, such as Iraqi money, prayer rugs, and photos. These items aid in shedding light on some cultural aspects of Iraq and the Middle East.
"We're letting soldiers know that we care about them and that they've not been forgotten," said Mrs. Perkins. "It's a primary source of information. We've gotten to know the culture better. The news is always negative, but there is a lot of positive, too." Mrs. Perkins, referring to the current rebuilding taking place in Iraq, went on to note that these students are also learning that students are going to school in Iraq, people are voting, and these soldiers believe in what they are doing.
Service learning, which is what this class entails, is a far cry from community service. Community service workers, such as those who are seen working during PRIDE clean-ups, are sometimes court ordered to work, while others may be volunteers. As Mrs. Perkins noted, "Service learning allows you to choose the projects that you feel will be of great benefit to the community and you bring it to life." Indeed, this project of adopting a soldier that these students are participating in has become, over this short period of time, a great benefit not only to the soldiers who receive gratitude, but to the students who are receiving a more enlightened education.
The soldiers that the students are "adopting" are mostly local residents from surrounding counties in Kentucky.