Tuckerman organization takes students above and beyond
By Krishnan Collins
Delta Digital News Service
TUCKERMAN – Behind the guidance of an extremely hardworking and passionate woman, an organization brought Tuckerman schools’ report cards to an A grade and provides support for communities in the Delta.
Jan Paschal’s organization, Every Child is Ours, provides support for students in Tuckerman and also helps people in the community get the amount of food they need.
Paschal aims to help less fortunate students succeed in the classroom. Paschal said she believes every student can obtain an education; some students just do not have the same opportunities as others.
“I think we have different expectations for poor children than we do for rich,” Paschal said. “I think that’s wrong on every level. I think rich and poor children can all succeed if they have equal footing. I think we as Americans need to look at education in that way.”
Paschal worked with people like Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela as she helped students gain an educational footing all around the world. Despite Paschal’s ability to reach different corners of the world, she moved back to Tuckerman and made an impact.
One of Paschal’s main points she emphasizes allows students to feel like they are loved and to feel like they are believed in. In Tuckerman, ECIO puts on multiple events for students of all ages to show they are loved and to let students get involved in the community.
Perhaps one of the most moving of those events is the bunny cake event. Students in fourth grade individually bake bunny shaped cakes after an important state mandated test every year. After they bake those cakes and decorate the cakes themselves, they write a letter to the person who has helped them the most in education.
“The letters are incredibile,” Paschal said. “Maybe you don’t even know that the grandma has come over and read to this child forever. We had one little boy who graduated and went to Lyon College. His grandmother helped him because his mom had a drug problem. He had to be outside under the steps. That’s where he was all the time, under the steps of his house. That little boy was an honor graduate of this school.”
One annual event that truly represents what ECIO and Paschal are all about. Tuckerman High School principal Michael Holland noted many of the events ECIO puts on in Tuckerman, but he only called one the main event.
While a lot of schools may schedule a day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Tuckerman schools do not schedule the holiday off. However, that day is seen as a day of service with ECIO as students prepare meals including soups, chili and sandwiches. Students deliver the meals to elderly residents in the community.
“When those kiddos, I drive the bus, those kids get off the bus and knock on the door,” Holland said. “Sometimes those kids will come back to the bus with a tear in their eye. I say ‘Hey is everything OK?’ and they say ‘Yes that was wonderful.’”
Holland said the day of service stands as his favorite day of the school year and he is proud to be a part of the event.
Arkansas State University also participates in the day of service. Gina Hogue, an associate professor at A-State, said the impact of the day of service was so major on a student that the student told Hogue she still remembered her trip to Tuckerman and getting to work with Paschal from two years ago.
“I am so inspired by the work she’s doing and providing food and clothing and encouragement for students,” Hogue said. “When Jan walks into a classroom and introduces herself and looks in the eyes of every single student in the class, they know they’re special. She tells them that they’re special. She encourages them to become the very best student they can be.”
With Paschal’s work in Tuckerman, an expectation of college or some form of higher education is placed on students. Paschal, of course, has a way to encourage that expectation.
ECIO brought A-State students to Tuckerman schools and had the students talk about what it was like to be in college. Athletes and student government members alike talked to Tuckerman students and Paschal pointed out the athletes did not talk about their ability on the field, they talked about what life was like in the classroom.
According to Paschal, the student government members from A-State received the same amount of love just as the athletes. Young Tuckerman students just wanted to know what it was like to be in college.
Hogue, a first-generation college student from the Delta herself, knew the importance of A-State students sharing their college experiences.
“I’m a first generation college student from Bay, Arkansas,” Hogue said. “My parents encouraged my sister and I to get a college education. But a lot of the students we grew up with, did not have that family support. They didn’t know they were really capable of going to college.”
After teaching and just being in the Delta, Hogue said she realized a lot of students had never thought of the idea of going to college. She called Pascal’s work of encouraging students to get a higher education “critical work.”
Bringing multiple Tuckerman schools to an A rating took work from everyone in the community. Paschal noted ECIO worked like the glue of everything that was going on to increase students’ productivity.
“We have so many kids who have substance abuse problems,” Paschal said. “Not them but people in their homes. (We have) poverty and we don’t even have a grocery store here. What we’ve almost become is the glue. We’re what holds everybody together.”
Holland acknowledged this glue effect and praised his own faculty and staff at Tuckerman High School.
“If a student is lacking in food at home and they have to come to school hungry, I just think it helps and works hand in hand,” Holland said referring to ECIO’s side. “If we can help provide them with food, it’s only going to help their learning.”
Holland talked about his faculty and staff next.
“I really feel like it’s a one word answer: family,” Holland said about what makes his staff so successful. “I feel like this is the best overall staff I’ve had in place since I’ve been here.”
Another aspect of Paschal’s work includes encouraging teamwork and kindness. With the help of Dillards at Tuckerman’s Middle School campus, Dillards built a boutique where students can buy clothes. The twist happens when students earn special currency that can be spent at the store by just being kind to one another and then informing the act of kindness to their teachers. Paschal said it is hard to open a door for yourself at the middle school because everyone is working so hard to be kind.
ECIO even provided McDonalds meals as a treat to every student in a class if everyone completed all the tasks given to them on a checklist in an event before Christmas break. This taught accountability and teamwork as students made sure everyone completed their tasks so they could receive a tasty treat.
From widening students’ worldviews by having them talk to students in overseas countries like Jordan, to encouraging high school students to help older people in the community by unloading food at the food pantry, it seems like Paschal never runs out of innovative ideas to transform a community. Her passion for education flows into the community and the people around her.
“Children everywhere can learn if they have the right conditions and the right books and all the things that we try to give to ours,” Paschal said. “We need to make sure that in the USA every child is valued. I don’t care what that child’s problems are, what color their skin is or what their religion is. We should as Americans have the standard that every child matters. That’s the name of our organization, Every Child is Ours.”
Editor’s Note: Feature photo courtesy of ECIO: Jan Paschal stands with the students after the annual Bunny Cake event. After the cakes are made, students write a letter to the person who helped them the most in their education.