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Roses and thorns: 4/1/12




A rose to the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science students who worked to make the 22nd annual "Tales from the Crypt" a success. Every year, a new set of thespians reminds us that history, when done right, is quick, alive and well-worth braving the crowd --¬†and we do mean crowd. Hundreds have flocked to Friendship Cemetery this week to see the students perform graveside vignettes spotlighting the cemetery's most colorful inhabitants.  


The students choose the characters they portray, spending four months researching their subject, unearthing secrets which might have otherwise been lost to the grave. Director and MSMS history teacher Chuck Yarborough has led the program for 11 years, guiding the students through their research as well as the many hours of practice required. Not surprisingly, "Tales from the Crypt" has elicited both state and national recognition, receiving the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts and being named a finalist for The History Channel's "Save Our History" award. 


If you missed the troupe's first three performances, you have two more chances -- Monday and Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $4 for adults and $2 for children.  


Our suggestion? Bring the family, get there early, wear comfortable shoes and enjoy a fine performance. 




A bouquet of roses to the homeowners who so graciously allow us to traipse across their lawns, linger in their gardens and wander their hallways during the Spring Pilgrimage currently underway. Thirteen homes are on tour right now, some for the first time (like Pete and Lee Tortorici's Ole Magnolia at 1219 Third Ave. N.) and some for the last time (like Trudy Gildea's Twelve Gables at 220 Third St. S.).  


We can't imagine the time and energy it must take to prepare for a two-week glut of visitors, and yet the hosts and hostesses seem to have no dearth of smiles or enthusiasm, even at the end of the day. 


We spotted several out-of-towners this week, many for whom Pilgrimage was their first taste of the South. We were glad to hear they were having fun and were impressed by the hospitality they've received.  


It's a beautiful time to get outside and appreciate the beauty of a Mississippi springtime, and we hope you take the chance to at least stroll the sidewalks and say hello to a few of our visitors. Take a camera, too. We guarantee you'll see something you'll want to photograph. 




A bouquet of roses to West Lowndes Elementary School Principal Robert Sanders, as well as the staff, students and parents who have pulled off a feat some said was impossible.  


Two years ago, the county school was labeled "At Risk of Failing" by the Mississippi Department of Education's assessment and accountability system. In September 2011, their test scores had risen enough to be named a "High-Performing" school.  


Turning a school around is more than simply resolving to do better next year. It requires a complete mind shift, something Sanders quickly grasped. Instead of accepting low scores and lackluster performance, he looked beyond what demographics said his students could do, choosing instead to raise the bar.  


He made it clear to teachers and parents that he expected more from them as well. He grilled teacher candidates, making sure he recruited the best. He implemented clever strategies to encourage parent participation at school and at home.  


He asked students what they liked reading, then made sure the library was stocked with those types of books. 


It's easy to focus upon what's wrong with education. But change -- lasting change -- begins when one person stands up and says, "It doesn't have to be this way."  


When Sanders and his staff couldn't find solutions within their own walls, they took to the road, visiting similar schools where students were beating the odds. Now, administrators from other counties are asking to visit West Lowndes Elementary. Sanders expects his school to reach "Star" status, the highest rung on the MDE report card, this year.  


We congratulate them on their journey toward excellence.  




A rose to the Facebook Watch Barn Raising group, which sprang into action after Steens farmer and Hitching Lot Farmer's Market favorite Jimmy Craddieth's barn burned down. Rebecca Garner Swain has delivered mail to Craddieth for years. After the fire, she posted a picture to her Facebook page and asked people to help him.  


People quickly embraced the idea, with more than 300 joining the group, donating items for auctions, holding a fundraiser at The Junction, delivering feed for his cows and horses and pitching in wherever they could.  


Lynn Sanders Nordquist, B.J. Rutherford, Dawn Russell Clausen, Chris West, Mac Martin, Ron Williams, Becky Smith and dozens of others have been instrumental in keeping momentum behind the movement. Others have contributed anonymously, and they deserve credit as well. 


April 7, the group is planning to gather at Craddieth's home to rebuild the barn. They hope to be finished by the end of the day.  


If you'd like to help, you can join the group's Facebook page or give monetary donations to "Cadence Bank: Rebecca J. Swain Barn Raising Account." 




A rose to the many volunteers who quietly feed the hungry every Monday and Friday at Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen, located at 322 22nd St. N.  


Girl Scout Troop 20253, led by Nancy Seguin, served baked ziti to more than 100 people Friday. Some of the girls are frequent volunteers at the soup kitchen through church missions.  


There are people who will say Columbus doesn't have a problem with food insecurity, homelessness or the poverty so visible in larger cities. Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't there.  


Inevitably, when we talk to adults who are active in the community, we learn they began volunteering when they were children. There are plenty of ways to get involved. Loaves and Fishes is a good place to start.  




A rose to those who support the activities and organizations in our community. Too often, we hear people say there's nothing to do in Columbus. We beg to differ. From sports to the arts to civic groups to social functions, the real challenge lies in choosing between options.  


Several people let us know this week how much they enjoyed Thursday night's "Partial to Home" music series at Rosenzweig Arts Center's Omnova Theater. The handful of attendees received a real treat -- a stellar performance from Starkville guitarist and songwriter Drew Dieckmann, Starkville folk singer Joe Jordan and classically-trained guitarist Bo Jeffares, who also serves as the pastor of Hope Community Church. 


It's a shame so few people came to see them perform. We can't expect talented folks to pour their time and energy into events if no one shows up. And yet, we see it over and over -- a packed calendar of activities, attended by a scant populace.  


We understand money is tight, but free events suffer the same low attendance. If we look at the calendar one day and find it truly empty, we might well look in the mirror and ask ourselves why.  




























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