Between things like rush hour traffic and the beating drums of Friday night football, living next to Cullman High School can bring its own set of unique circumstances. But it also has some nice perks. Most notably, all those students can make for some pretty good neighbors, too.
For the fifth year, the Cullman High School National Honor Society (NHS) teamed up for the Thankful Neighbor Project, which finds students writing personal messages and dropping off a goodie bag of holiday gifts for around two dozen of the campus’ closest neighborhood residents. This year’s goodie bags included personalized "thank yous" written by students, along with pre-packaged cookie mix, a kitchen towel and a spatula. Gifts from years past have included things like local honey and biscuit mix, wrapping paper, and hot cocoa.
“The school day traffic and ringing bells are a daily thing, of course, and these families deal with noise and traffic on many occasions being so close to the school,” Cullman High teacher and NHD Adviser Jennifer Calahan explained. “Our school is almost always active with sporting events, band events, theater events, and other activities at nights and weekends. Even during the summer, there are practices and meetings of all kinds on our campus. We want the families who live nearby to know that we are thankful for them and the tolerance, kindness, and support they demonstrate to Cullman High School.”
Calahan went on to explain how the project works, with students in the NHS taking it upon themselves to put the gifts together and put in some socially-distanced face time to say hello and deliver the packs themselves.
“The members signed up to donate money for the purchase of the gifts, to go purchase the gifts after school, to write the notes, to come in and package the gifts, and to walk and deliver gifts to the porches of the homes,” Calahan said. “We see this as a way to help teach the students to recognize when it is appropriate and necessary to show gratitude, and to encourage them to give back when opportunities arise.”
Students have had to get a bit more creative than usual to pull off the Thankful Neighbor Project in 2020, dividing and conquering their duties across the staggered hybrid schedule the high school has been operating under this year to encourage additional social distancing due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Our NHS meetings have looked quite different because we are functioning on a hybrid schedule this year,” Calahan noted. “But, I have a sign in my classroom that reads ‘Please and Thank You are still the magic words.’ I want to model that as well as have the members of the NHS to do the same. Also, in this time of pandemic and virtual ‘everything,’ I want students to remember we can still physically make contact with others while still remaining safe.”
Cullman High School Principal Kim Hall echoed those sentiments, adding, “Our neighbors are very supportive of our school, and we appreciate them so much.”
Cullman City Schools has more than 3,000 students and encompasses Cullman High School (Grades 9-12), Cullman Middle School (Grades 7-8), East Elementary School (Grades 2-6), West Elementary School (Grades 2-6), and Cullman City Primary School (Grades K-1). Cullman City Schools also hosts the Cullman City Head Start Program. Cullman City Schools consistently ranks as one of the top school systems in College ACT scores in the state of Alabama.