November 25, 2013

‘There’s nothing wrong with being country’

Bagley’s Westmoreland touts Murray pride with graduate wall

By Christopher Smith

— CHATSWORTH — An accountant. A newspaper photographer. A police officer.

All came out of Bagley Middle School since it opened in 1989. And now those graduates, who have found successful lives outside of school, have their names on a wall in Bagley for students to see.

The idea started when Toby Westmoreland, the curriculum and instructional facilitator with Bagley Middle, wanted to inspire students walking through school halls.

“It’s about getting them to think, ‘have you thought about what you what you want to be when you grow up?’,” he said. “The earlier we start and get them mindful of those things, the better.”

Colton Parker, an officer with Dalton Police Department featured on the wall, agreed.

“I think it’s very important,” he said. “It’s very important to get the younger generation thinking about a variety of career paths and career opportunities that education offers.”

Westmoreland said students have seen Parker’s biography on the wall, sparking a conversation about their futures.

“By putting the wall out there, people were stopping and reading the biographies,” he said. “And they ask, ‘Well, what does it take to be a police officer? What kind of education do I have to have?’ And we can tell them, ‘well you don’t necessarily have to go to college to be a police officer, but you have to go to police academy and learn the law.’”

Josh Fowler, a pharmacist also featured on the wall, said he hopes his biography will help students see “how life plays out after the time period where you’re in school,” he said.

“It’s definitely good to get kids on the idea of what they could do in the future,” he added. “He (Westmoreland) has put this out there as an example to kids ... to start thinking about things and expanding beyond just their own community to learn what’s out there.”

Westmoreland said he hopes the wall will also help students see they can be “whatever they want” regardless of their background.

“We have a great culture and we have a great history and there’s nothing wrong with being country,” he said of being a resident in Chatsworth. “But just because we are country doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak well and write well.”

After all, Westmoreland said, “If you have an education, no one can stop you.”