Westside Middle School student, chorus highlighted by school board

Feb. 12—Transferring from one school to another can be an intimidating experience. That has been especially true for Andrea Reed, who, despite being in the eighth grade at Westside Middle School, has already attended seven schools.

During the Whitfield County Board of Education's most recent meeting at Westside Middle, Reed spoke about her experiences of rarely staying in one place for too long.

"I'm part of a retired military family and due to that I've lived in seven different places, which means I've been to seven different schools," Reed said. "When I first came to Westside (Middle) in seventh grade I was nervous I wouldn't fit in."

Reed said arriving to yet another new school — with another new batch of teachers and friends to be made — brought with it a feeling of nervousness. She said those nerves would seemingly never be overcome until one day when she called to mind a quote she had heard that is commonly attributed to author Tracey Taylor.

"It says 'Home is where you feel loved, appreciated and safe,'" Reed said. "And I'm here to say that Westside Middle has become an amazing home for me, where I do in fact feel loved, appreciated and safe."

Reed detailed her involvement with several clubs and programs at the school, including Westside Middle's leadership program, yearbook club, travel softball team, track team and Inspire club, a service-oriented program similar to the National Beta Club.

"I also do art, where some of my pieces have been entered through our school in contests," Reed said. "I know these opportunities are setting me up for success, not only for the remainder of my time as a Whitfield County student but for the remainder of my life."

Reed thanked the school board members for "investing not only in my education, but in every student in our district."

"There are more than 13,000 students in Whitfield County Schools," she said. "You have devoted your valuable time to do extraordinary things and to lead our schools with excellence. You also support the initiative our teachers take each day to prepare every student in Whitfield County for the future."

Following Reed's speech, Superintendent Mike Ewton introduced Westside Middle School's Rocket Chorus, made up of seventh- and eighth-grade students and directed by Westside Middle's chorus director Nick Walker.

The chorus performed two songs — Elvis Presley's 1961 hit "Can't Help Falling in Love" and Nat King Cole's 1964 single "L-O-V-E."

"The Westside Rocket Chorus will be singing these songs in the spirit of Valentine's Day and in homage to Black History Month," Ewton said while introducing them. "The students here tonight joined the program due to their interest in music and passion for singing."

After a multi-year hiatus at the middle school, Walker brought the chorus program back halfway through the 2022-23 school year, his first at the school.

Westside Middle School Principal Jonathan Schneider said the return of the program was a welcome addition.

"It's been good for our kids because it's a great outlet," Schneider said. "One of the reasons we wanted to get it started was because, a long time ago, we used to have a thriving chorus program. Northwest (Whitfield) High School has their own chorus as well, so we wanted kids to have the opportunity to dive in to singing and learning music, that way if they wanted to continue doing it in high school, then they have that foundation here."