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BRIDGING THE GAP – During the visit to Lyons Primary School Congressman Allen (left) and Superintendent Barry Waller (right) spoke about the struggle to bridge the gap between graduation and entering the workforce.Photo by Makaylee Randolph
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BRIDGING THE GAP – During the visit to Lyons Primary School Congressman Allen (left) and Superintendent Barry Waller (right) spoke about the struggle to bridge the gap between graduation and entering the workforce.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

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books, and then distribute them as requested by members of Congress. We started this program because it is essential that we advocate for childhood literacy. As you know, statistically, if you are not reading at a third grade level when you finish the third grade, you are likely not going to graduate from high school. And if you don’t get a high school diploma, in this country, the options are not very good for you as far as job training and that sort of thing.”

He emphasized, “The bottom line is we don’t want to shortchange our children. We want to make sure they have the [future] ability to provide for their families and get the right kind of education for themselves.”

At Lyons Primary School, Allen spoke with several school administrators on his own experience with education, and the issues with today’s youth and the workforce. “I serve on the Education and Workforce Committees, and we are doing what we can to make sure we are supporting the education system, and or course, we did pass a bill to encourage parents to get more involved in their child’s education.”

Among the challenges the education system is facing is students’ social and emotional issues. “The emotional health of young people is something we have never seen before. It is almost like an epidemic. They have so many issues. Of course, we understand and know that some of where that is coming from is social media. We’ve had numerous hearings dealing with TikTok and some of these others sites that are really disturbing in what they are putting into the minds of children,” Allen told the group.

He continued, “I tell young people, ‘[your mind] is the greatest computer ever created, and if you put garbage in here, you’re going to get garbage out.’ So, parents and teachers, guard the minds and hearts of your children because they can take in a lot of information and then try to sort it all out. I tell young people if you don’t know who you are – your purpose and identity – and whose you are, you are more than likely going to have emotional problems because those are the two things that carve you out of a crowd.”

Allen said that these issues often distract students from realizing the importance of their education. “You have to get kids early these days to get them on the right pathway because it is so easy in our culture to get off the tracks and to be drawn to other things,” he stated. “Kids deal with a lot of these social issues, but the thing with education that they need to understand is that this prepares them for the rest of their life and their ability to provide for their family, community, church, and this nation. Thank you for those strides you’re making.”

The struggle to educate youth translates into struggles within maintaining a fully-staffed workforce, according to Allen. “Everywhere I go, workforce is an issue,” he emphasized. “We are severely shorthanded in the workforce, which is really keeping the economy from growing. Most companies – including the company I founded – have basically dialed back their work load so that they can get the work done with the people they have.”

He continued, “Georgia is in pre-COVID levels as far as economic development goes; it could be further along if we had the available workforce.”

Toombs County Schools Superintendent Barry Waller informed the Congressman of the school district’s work to prepare students to enter the workforce upon graduation. He told Allen about the numerous pathways, such as the latest Heavy Equipment Pathway. “We are preparing kids to take that job and position in the workforce, and it does fall continued from page

on this level of teaching them to read to get there.”

At Montgomery County Elementary School, Allen spoke with a group of students about the influence that his teachers had on him during his time in school. He said one of the teachers with the most impact on him was a middle school teacher, Mrs. Ward, who encouraged him to take his time and do his best on his work. “She told me that she thought I was one of the smartest kids in the class – I was just bored,” he reminisced. “It completely changed how I viewed school. I went on to be in the Top 10 of my class, and it was because of teachers like her.”

The students told Allen about their favorite things about school, and even discussed the types of books which they enjoyed.

Superintendent Stan Rentz commented on the event. ”Congressman Allen said it’s important that children learn to read by the third grade, noting, ‘If a student can't read proficiently by the third grade, there a great possibility that they won’t graduate from high school, and if they don’t graduate from high school, there’s an 85% chance they will live the rest of their lives in poverty.’” “Thank you all for what you do,” Allen shared. “My mom and dad were in education – my dad was a farmer and then got involved in education later in life, but my mom was a librarian ever since I can remember. So, I heard those talks around the kitchen table at night about what they were dealing with back then, and I can’t imagine what you’re dealing with now.”

The books are now available for students to check out at each school library, and are marked with an official stamp denoting that the books were donated from the Library of Congress inventory.

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