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Volunteer giving back to kids

William “Billy” Simmons is a good friend of the Farmington R-7 School District. For his untiring efforts he was awarded the July Heartland Hero Award at Tuesday evening’s board of education meeting.

At first glance Simmons’ school record may not look much different than many students who have walked the halls and classrooms. He attended Farmington schools for several years before leaving prior to graduation and moved to Cape Girardeau. It was there he earned a G.E.D. and started life in the work force.

What’s different about Simmons is that he had something of a rough start. He lived in Farmington Children’s Home, operated by the Presbyterian organization. That meant he attended school at Midwest Learning Center, a branch of Farmington High School reserved in part for children with behavioral and other disruptive problems. Life at MLC was still a learning opportunity, but maybe not as socially accepted as attending the mainstream classrooms.

But Simmons didn’t let his different start taint him or turn him away from his roots. Instead Billy Simmons did something few children’s home and MLC students do — he returned to his old school to volunteer. Now he works through Youth For Christ and directly with his former high school — hoping to maybe help the teachers and administrators who helped him, and positively influence the students attending MLC now.

Rick Augustine, administrator of MLC, told Simmons’ story as he presented him with a plaque of appreciation and the “Heartland Hero” designation for July. Simmons gratefully accepted the plaque and said he was “speechless,” having been invited to the school board session for what he believed was another reason.

A group of items were approved including leaving school meal prices at the same rate as the prior year, and it was announced that additional lighting at the high school has been completed. Work will begin soon on engineering for air conditioning at Truman Auditorium and the high and middle school gymnasiums.

Only two additional reports were given before the meeting was called into executive session. The 2003-2004 Comprehensive School Improvement Plan and 2003-2004 Health Manual revisions were both approved.

The board’s next regular meeting will fall in conjunction with the start of classes for the new school year in mid to late August.

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