effingham

New Horizons : Paige Dickey and Rincon Elementary School

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Tonya Perry
Rincon Elementary School has a whole new look. Well, it actually has a little more than just a new look. It is an entirely new school all together.  In fact, it stands as the largest elementary school in the county, being built to accommodate 1,200 students; however, it will start with about 975. This new school’s doors opened bright and early on Thursday, August 2nd. Paige Dickey, a Savannah native, has been the school’s principal for over 13 years. She is excited about the new school and even more excited to see how her students respond.

Paige lives in the local area, along with her husband Travis and their three children: Walker, Conner and Brittany. Travis is originally from Effingham. Paige has been an educator for over 28 years. She began her career as a special education (SPED) teacher in 1991 at the Coastal Georgia Academy in Savannah. After investing five years there, she moved to Effingham County High School (ECHS), where she continued teaching SPED for two years. Afterward, she was the South Effingham High School (SEHS) assistant principal for a couple of years, before becoming a special education program manager for the Fayette County Board of Education. She also had a four-year tenure as the assistant principal of Effingham County High School (ECHS) prior to her position at Rincon Elementary. Interestingly enough, this will be the first time that Paige has been privileged to be in a brand-new building.
The entire building processes began about two years ago; the faculty and staff actually started their packing initiatives after student testing was completed last spring. Paige is grateful for all the help of the young ladies and young men of the SEHS and ECHS Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). Both groups worked extra hard to assure that the move was smooth and successful. SEHS helped with the move out of the old building, while ECHS assisted with the move into the new one.
“Those were some amazing kids. It was wonderful; it was well orchestrated,” Paige said. She adds, “our maintenance department has been amazing with our move and helping us settle in.”
She remembers some of the things that everyone did at the old school to make the moving process fun, including having pretend day-outs: “cookouts, beach days and campouts.”
“There were definitely a lot of memories made with that move. One teacher even bought a family-sized tent, and they all had reading time together in the tent. It was awesome; it was fun,” Paige added.
Paige is anxious to see everything unfold. She, too, is excited about a few new things in particular.
“My favorite part is the ‘reading tree,’” she mentioned. Having a Winnie the Pooh theme, an entire portion of the library has a model of a big tree within a forest that can be entered and exited. Designed to cater, more so, to younger students, the entire cozy setting is sure to make story time fun and help foster a love for reading. Paige plans to “have story time on Fridays with her pre-k students.”
“I like to get to know our kids when they’re little, because many of our children stay with us the whole time. It’s nice to see them from four years old through ten, building relationships as they grow,” she said.
Additionally, Paige is looking forward to promoting even more overall literacy this academic year, which will coincide with the county literacy initiative. She and her faculty and staff are also dedicated to helping students further their knowledge in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math with their new STEM labs.
She is committed to diligently working to assure that the wonderful qualities that have long been prevalent within the school do not change just because the physical make-up has.
“Our kids are going to be in this beautiful new school…this new environment. Everything changes, but you have to keep your core values. We’re going to bring our traditions and our heart for children here. We’re going to ensure that the heart of our school does not change, and I don’t think it will,” Paige remarked.
Much of the atmosphere of any school is a direct result of the strength and the heart of its leadership. Paige takes pride in having a mother’s heart and wants that to be obvious to every student and parent.
“I’m a mom first. When I hire, I hire as a mom first, and then a principal. My first goal is to take care of them. If you don’t love kids, you can’t teach them. The relationship piece is the most important to me. I value the relationships,” she said.
Speaking of values, Paige believes that all students deserve a quality education and great academic opportunities. That said, Rincon Elementary has been a “Title I Highest Performing Reward School for about 14 years.” Title I status allows for federal financial assistance, namely grants, to be allocated if “children from low-income families make up at least 40% of enrollment; Title I funds may be used for schoolwide programs that serve all children in the school.” These programs are created to help all students meet “state academic standards,” especially those most academically challenged.
“Anybody can be brilliant, and anybody can do their best; it doesn’t matter their income level,” Paige stated.
“Title I has provided a lot of advantages. It has provided our parent liaison, Reneé Rollins, who is wonderful; federal title money pays for that,” Paige said. Reneé spearheads various academic and social programs, including the Christmas Wish List, designed to aid less fortunate families during the Christmas season.
“Parents love her,” Paige added. She is grateful to have a great parent-teacher organization, PTO, to help with overall efforts.
“They’re wonderful. They help immensely…always here, always helping,” she commented. It certainly takes a village in student success, and Paige, along with her team of educators, does not take that for granted.
“For the past 14 years, we’re always ranked in the top 5% of title schools in the state. Our kids do really well. Their parents work hard; the teachers work hard; the kids work hard,” Paige said.
Paige highly regards her entire school faculty and staff and is proud to work with such noteworthy individuals who share in her sincere love for the kids.
“We don’t have a lot of turnover; we have very steady teachers. I think our biggest advantage is that we hire people that love children. It’s a very welcoming and nurturing environment. Everybody works together; everybody has the best interest of the kids at heart, and that’s what matters. It’s about the kids,” Paige stated.
She mentions some of those individuals that she works closely with to ensure student success–her assistant principals. Kirbi Ratner, a former 2nd grade teacher and 5th grade math, science and social studies teacher, is the “instructional supervisor over curriculum, instruction and testing.”
“She was phenomenal in the classroom, and she is phenomenal as the instructional supervisor,” Paige declared. Tracy Kieffer, once a student at Rincon Elementary, became a teacher for the school and is now an administrator. Paige knows that she adds tremendous value to the team. Paige feels privileged to have Melissa Long, who recently transferred from Marlow Elementary School. All-in-all, everyone is certainly dedicated to student success.
As Paige looks out the window of her new office, she is very pleased with what she sees. She is confident that the future of Rincon Elementary School will be as bright as the skies above.

Georgia’s 2018 High School Assistant Principal of the Year : TAMMY JACOBS

story by Kathryn Vandenhouten
photos by Shelia Scott
The Georgia Association for Secondary School Principals has named South Effingham High School’s Tammy Jacobs as the Assistant Principal of the Year for 2018. She is both honored and humbled at the distinction, and she is excited for another new school year as a Mustang.
     This is her seventeenth year with SEHS, and she has come a long way. She got her start as a math teacher, and she taught for five and a half years before accepting the assistant principal and testing coordinator position. This will be her sixth year as the instructional supervisor and assistant principal.
Jacobs has always had a heart for leadership. When she was younger, she may have been labeled as “bossy,” but even as a child, she always gravitated toward leadership roles. “I like to think outside the box. I like to think of new ideas. I like to be as innovative as possible,” she says. “I knew that with those qualities, I’d be a good leader, but I didn’t expect to get out of the classroom so soon.”
Though she had only been teaching for five years, she was ready to jump in and take the reins in administration. “I thought that I’d be in the classroom about ten years, but the opportunity presented itself and I couldn’t say no,” explains Jacobs.
SEHS Principal, Dr. Mark Winters, saw potential in Jacobs early in her career, and she has met and exceeded his expectations as an administrator. “It’s more than just her dedication to the job,” says Winters. “She is very creative. She’s always looking for ways of improving not just what comes in her realm of responsibility, but whatever is good for the school.”
Winters has known Jacobs ever since she was a student in his ninth grade English class at ECHS. “She’s just a very extraordinary person, and you say these things about educators being compassionate and caring, which is so true, but hers is just so much above and beyond, and she gets the big picture,” says Winters. “I’ve worked with so many different administrators over the years, and she is just someone who really has that panoramic view of the school,” he adds.
In fact, Winters felt she was so deserving of the title, he filled out her Assistant Principal of the Year application himself. Not only was Jacobs in shock to be a finalist, but she was surprised that she was entered in the first place.
When she got the call from GASSP, she was quite confused at first. She didn’t know why they were contacting her about an application she had never filled out. She had no idea that Dr. Winters had filled out the application for her.
“He asked me one day at the very beginning of the school year a question about something I had done back in the day, but I had no idea he was questioning me because he was doing the application for me for GASSP,” she recalls. “So it was a surprise, and I’m very humbled that he took the time with his busy schedule to do that.”
And as surprised as she was to be in the running, she was even more shocked when she won. “I was surprised to say the least,” says Jacobs. “I did not think I’d go as far as I did.” The interviews for the finalists were especially nerve-racking, but she kept her composure, and it worked in her favor.
Jacobs is proud to be a Mustang, and for good reason.  SEHS is not just the school where she works; it is her alma mater, and she takes her school pride seriously. She was a member of the first graduating class of SEHS, and she feels just as excited to be a Mustang now as she did when the school was brand new. “I wanted to be a part of the first graduating class because we were starting something and it was so exciting,” she recalls.
Her excitement and school pride have only grown. The Mustang motto has changed since she graduated.  From “A New Tradition of Excellence” to “The Legend Lives,” the school slogan has evolved with the school itself. What started out as a “New Tradition of Excellence” has now grown into an exceptional school program in which students are given the tools and opportunities to succeed.
“I want to make sure that we can leave a legacy and that the kids that leave here are going to go make their mark on the world,” says Jacobs. “They’re going to be a better person for being at this school, so I have a lot of school pride. I’m very proud to be a Mustang.”
Since Jacobs became assistant principal, she has implemented various programs to facilitate positive change for both faculty and students. Instructional focus, Mustang Mentors, after school tutorials, AP crash courses and dropout prevention are some of the programs that are particularly important to her.
Though the dropout rate at SEHS is low, Jacobs wants to see all of her students graduate and is impacted whenever that doesn’t happen. “Can I tell you the most difficult part, and I will lose sleep over this at night, are those kids that we feel like we can’t get to,” she says.
She has overcome many obstacles along the way, but she says she has grown from every challenge. From the challenges of being a young administrator to balancing work, continuing her education, and raising a family, Jacobs says she could not have accomplished it without the support of those around her.
Her faith, family, friends and coworkers have made all the difference. “I have a huge support system,” she says. “I think it’s the love and support of people around you. Knowing that I have a principal that supports me one hundred percent and allows me to be innovative and allows me to do things makes it worthwhile.”
When she is not at the school, she spends as much time as she can with her husband, Bryan, and their three-year-old twins, Isaac and Asher. Playing with them and watching them grow have become her  favorite hobby.
She is currently an Educational Specialist, and she plans to start working on her doctorate next year. Her ultimate goal is to become a principal. “I feel like I still have a lot to bring to the table, and I’d love the opportunity to be a principal,” she says.
As much as she loves her role in administration, the one thing she misses the most is the close relationship she had with her students when she was in the classroom. With over 1,600 students at SEHS, she doesn’t know each student quite as well, but she still refers to them all as “my kids,” and their success is important to her.
When asked the best advice she could give them to succeed, she refers to a poster that was in her classroom. It read: “Let the choices I make today be the consequences I can live with tomorrow.” It is a slogan that sticks with her to this day.  “Make good choices and learn from the bad choices made,” says Jacobs. “That’s how you grow.”
Jacobs has certainly grown as an educator as well as an administrator. From student, to teacher, to assistant principal, she has truly come full circle at SEHS. And she plans to keep going as far as her ambition and her talents will take her.
As another school year begins, she is excited to continue her job of supporting the faculty and students at SEHS. Winning 2018 Assistant Principal of the Year has been an honor for Tammy Jacobs, but working at the school she loves is the true honor.

Premier Bowl & Bistro “Pooler’s Ultimate Entertainment Destination”

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Tonya Perry
Pooler has an all new and exciting entertainment venue. In fact, there is nowhere like it in the surrounding area. Premier Bowl & Bistro, located next to their sister property, Frames n’ Games, recently opened its doors to the public. As it is a family-owned business, Christopher, “Chris,” Smith, the sales and marketing manager, feels that the “personal touch makes a difference,” and he is enthusiastic about what is to come.
“Once people know we’re here, it’s really going to take off. I’m excited,” he said.
Understanding that Frames n’ Games often “caters to kids,” Premier was designed with adults in mind. It gives adults the option to be in a more mature environment, especially since there is a 21- year-old admittance requirement after 6 p.m. each day.
“We want to create an entertainment destination for adults…the ultimate adult entertainment destination. We still welcome kids before 6 p.m. But, of course, we do have the curfew after 6 p.m. Anyone can come in; we don’t discourage anyone,” Chris stated.
Chris and the entire team want customers to feel welcome and to have an incomparable experience when they come in. He believes that this is only accomplished through superior customer service.
“Of course, we do want top-of-the-line customer service. With anywhere you go, if you don’t have good customer service, you shouldn’t even open your doors,” he said.
The Bowl and More
Premier features a 14-lane bowling alley, but not just any bowling alley. It was created to provide more of an upscale vibe. The couches have a luxurious feel with built-in device outlets. There is a touch screen on every lane, where customers may conveniently place their orders. More so, there is “cosmic bowling” after 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, where regular lights dim and black lights come out, “along with lasers, disco lights and strobe lights.” The place is filled with music coming from a “state of the art sound system.”
Customers can relax and enjoy some games of pool as they take a load off in the laid-back atmosphere. If games are more desired, they can visit the arcade, which already includes a variety of fun and engaging games; however, there are even more to come.
The Bistro
The staff welcomes visitors to come with a big appetite. The menu is filled with an assortment of delicious dishes. Pizzas, made your way, include: Hawaiian, Greek, Meat Lovers and Buffalo, all made with a variety of taste buds in mind; “fresh pizza dough is made daily.”
“We have a brand-new brick pizza oven back there,” Chris said. “It’s awesome!”
Flavorful wings can be tossed in a variety of sauces, whether parmesan, lemon pepper, barbeque, teriyaki, buffalo or hot; the pecan smoked wings are certainly palate pleasers.
Most cannot resist the delectable, all beef Angus Burgers made of a “short rib and brisket blend,” including: the Portobello Mushroom Burger, a grilled burger covered with grilled Portobello Mushrooms; the “Mac,” topped with bacon and mac -n- cheese; the Jalapeno Bacon Burger, covered with fresh jalapenos and crispy bacon, or even the “Beyond Burger,” an “all-natural, soy-based protein burger.”
For customers who don’t quite want a big burger, the sandwiches, made of “antibiotic and hormone-free” meat, are the next best thing; enjoy the Philly Cheese made from shaved ribeye or the seasoned and grilled chicken sandwich. Further, the variety of creamy pastas (shrimp, chicken, veggie and salmon) are tongue-teasers.
There are various other menu items to choose from, including: naan tacos, fish and chips, sliders, quesadillas, chicken fingers, nachos, giant pretzels, hot dogs and fries/tots and curds. Customers who want to walk on the lighter side can enjoy fresh mixed salads. For those with a bit of a sweet tooth, both a creamy key lime pie and a decadent two-layer chocolate cake are great desert options. Moreover, the space is equipped with a “beautiful, large, granite-top” full bar for customers.
The staff at Premier wants to provide their customers with an “atmosphere centered around comfort and fun…a well-rounded environment, letting them escape the worries of the day.” That is why they feel customers should come in and see for themselves.
“Once you come and start having fun, you’re going to fall in love with it,” Chris commented. He explained that there were “regulars” after only the first week of business.
A banquet hall is also available to rent for private or corporate events. Large groups are welcomed. The team wants to strive to accommodate customers as much as possible, even by customizing offers to best satisfy their interests and needs.
Besides further developing several areas within the new business, the management team has various other goals in mind for the near future to provide customers’ overall entertainment pleasure, including the possibility of showcasing various bands for their enjoyment.
The team understands that people should always be one of the biggest focal points of any business.  That said, they recognize the value of community involvement. Chris believes that participating in value-driven and noteworthy fundraising activities within the community is a big part of having a successful business.
“If you’re not involved within the community, people really don’t appreciate the value of your business,” he said.
Premier Bowl & Bistro is driven to provide a mature, all-in-one “entertainment destination” for adults, while consistently offering all customers a unique entertainment getaway.

Minnie Wilder : Impacting Thousands of Effingham Students

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Shelia Scott
Tears fill Minnie Wilder’s eyes as she talks about retirement. The 77-year-old Effingham County native admits that being officially retired hasn’t hit her yet. As she shares her life story, it’s easy to understand why this new phase in her life brings with it mixed emotions. She dedicated nearly 48 years of her life in order to have a positive impact on the thousands of students’ lives she touched.
The Good Ole’ Days
If you went to school in Effingham County and rode a school bus, there’s a chance Minnie Wilder was behind the wheel. In 1970, at the advice of her friend, she became a substitute driver and drove pretty much as often as a regular driver. A year later, she was a full-time bus driver. “For my training, I made one big circle on the football field and away I went,” recalls Minnie. She chuckles thinking about that now as she talks about all of the required training that is necessary to drive today.
Back then, Minnie, only 118 pounds, had to improvise in order to drive the school bus. “There was no power steering, there were hydraulic brakes and the steering wheel felt like one of the big tires. I had to have the seat up high to turn the wheel, a block put on the gas pedal to reach it and had the seat completely unbolted and moved forward,” says Minnie. As Minnie flips through a scrapbook she made after retiring, there are pictures of her sitting behind the wheel. The tiny lady with a big smile looks just as happy as can be and even more comfortable. “The buses used to be stick shift and I had to open the door with all my arm strength,” says Minnie. Throughout Minnie’s career, she went through four new buses. Her first new bus was automatic, which was a big step up. The last bus she drove had air conditioning and instead of using her arm to open the door, she just turned a knob.
Making a Difference on the Roads
Spending 48 years on the road, it’s safe to say Minnie is as experienced as they come. She recalls one technique she implemented a long time ago. “I started the tradition of pulling over and letting cars go by. I would see lines of cars behind me, so if I had more than six cars waiting, I would find a safe place to pull over and let the cars pass,” says Minnie. “Cars will try to pass and that could be a danger. Eventually, other bus drivers started doing the same thing and now it’s a rule.”
In Minnie’s scrapbook, there are newspaper clippings of things she’s done in her years as a driver. One article was written 19 years after she started driving. The headline reads, “Bus driver thought fast, avoided wreck.” The story is about the time Minnie used her skills to prevent injuries to her young passengers. She was stopped letting kids off and noticed a truck with a trailer full of produce barreling down the road. She knew the driver wouldn’t be able to stop in time, so she acted fast. She yelled at the kids to cross quickly and pulled to the side of the road. The driver slammed into the stopped cars behind her; however, because of her quick thinking, the cars didn’t slam into the back of her bus.
Other articles mention her trips to the State Capitol to discuss issues related to school bus drivers with state legislators, as well as her participation in Road-eos where Minnie competed against other drivers in a series of bus movements that prepared drivers for the safe transportation of students. She also has plenty of training certificates that highlight her years of dedication. While Minnie spent many hours transporting children, she also was a school bus trainer, passing on her knowledge to other drivers just starting their careers. “The safety features have come a long way. Buses as a whole have come a long way and the changes are impressive,” says Minnie. “As a driver, you have to attend safety meetings once a month, attend defensive driving courses, participate in classroom and on-the-road training, remain CPR certified and have regular physicals.”
Minnie also drove the bus for extracurricular activities to include band and sports. She remembers one time she took kids on a trip to the mountains of Boone, North Carolina, and had to drive in the snow and ice. “While the trip was fun, driving in that weather was not,” Minnie says with a smile.
Making a Difference in the Classroom
If driving a school bus wasn’t enough, Minnie eventually found her way inside the classroom. She spent two years as a substitute teacher before becoming a paraprofessional in the County’s alternative school where she assisted teachers in the classroom. She later started working at Effingham County High School with special needs students. She spent 13 years as a paraprofessional and kept up her duties as a school bus driver. “It was there I became part of the children’s lives. As the years passed, the children I met while subbing in lower grades, started coming up in high school. I even got to attend senior prom with some of the students,” says Minnie. After spending time with these students, an opening became available to drive the special needs bus. Minnie accepted the position and spent 13 years behind the wheel of that bus. For Minnie it came full circle; she drove some of the children of the kids she drove when she first started driving.
“I feel like I made an impact and a difference. When you pick up a child, you don’t know how their life is at home. When they step on board, you can make their day by just saying good morning,” says Minnie. She says it was the same thing in the afternoons when students headed home from school. “The kids may have had a bad day and I was there to talk to them. Many would give me a hug and I would help take their minds off whatever was going on.”
Plans for the Future
As Minnie reminisces about her highly successful career and the joys she experienced over the years, she can’t help but think about the future. The retiree has big plans and they don’t include slowing down. She has three children, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, a cat and a dog who will keep her plenty busy. “I love to spend time with my family and I enjoy being outdoors. I love camping, fishing, kayaking, bicycling, quilting and riding my four-wheeler,” Minnie says with a big smile. At 70, she bought herself the four-wheeler and last year she bought a new Volkswagen Beetle. “Now I feel like if I want to take a trip, I can fill up and hit the road,” says Minnie with a big smile.
While she talks about the fun she plans on having, she admits she has another plan for retirement. “I have everything I need so that I can still substitute on the special needs bus if they ever need me,” adds Minnie. “When I told the kids I was retiring, they didn’t want me to. I told them they may see me again.” That will likely be the case. While Minnie may have hung up her full-time keys, she still has a spark and a desire to get behind the wheel. After all, the thrill of spending nearly half a century doing what you love doesn’t go away overnight.

BAILEE WILSON

“I love the winning, I can take the losing, but most of all I love to play.” –unknown
story by Cindy Burbage     photos by Shelia Scott
One of the hardest lessons to learn about life is in order to play hard, you must work hard. Meet Effingham County High School Senior, Bailee Wilson, whose life reflects this perception with her academics and softball career.
The seventeen-year-old began playing softball with the recreation department ten years ago and hasn’t looked back. Bailee shared, “I started when I was 8 years old and my love for the game only grew. My first travel ball experience came playing for the Angels. I stayed with this team for 5 years getting to compete at National Championships in Chattanooga, TN, Salem, VA, and even San Diego, CA. At 15 years old, I changed to the Georgia Impact. It was on this team when I first started to get recruited for college. It was important that I not only keep my skills up as a player, but also as a student. While attending school, I played for Effingham County Middle School on the softball team and for Effingham County High School. For my senior season, I will be playing for ECHS in the positions of pitcher and 3rd base.”
The love for the game and talent is something that runs in the Wilson family. Bailee’s interest was sparked by watching her sister, Shelby play. “She has always been someone that I look up to for guidance. She was playing in one of her travel ball games when her team made an amazing triple play. I looked over to my mom and told her, “I want to play!” the next week my parents signed me up for rec ball,” the pitcher reminisced.
Bailee has gone on to prove she is a force to be reckoned with on the ball field. Her achievements have been collected as: Region 2 AAAAAA Softball Player of the Year 2016/2017, Region 2 AAAAAA All State first team selection 2016/2017
Best Offensive Player ECHS Lady Rebel Softball team 2016/2017, Savannah Best of Preps Softball Player of the Year 2016/2017, Region 2 AAAAAA Softball Player of the Year 2017/2018, Region 2 AAAAAA All State first team selection 2017/2018, Best Offensive Player ECHS Lady Rebel Softball team 2017/2018, and Savannah Best of Preps Softball Player of the Year 2017/2018, respectfully.
Bailee Wilson’s accomplishments and determination will allow her to attend Georgia Southern University on a full scholarship. She explained her feat, “My scholarship to Georgia Southern was not a very easy decision for me. Ever since I was little, GS has been like home for me and my family. We would go to basketball games and softball games and I would go to their camps whenever I could. My recruitment started when I was 15. People may think that this is so young to be thinking about where you want to go to college, but in the softball world, this is too late to be recruited by some schools. At first, Georgia Southern was not even one of the colleges I thought about attending. Growing up, my entire family went there. My sister, Shelby, was recruited by them and is playing for them now. I thought at first it wasn’t for me because I didn’t want to go where my family went. I wanted to go somewhere different. I also didn’t want people to think I got my scholarship easy just because of my sister, says Bailee.
The recruitment process was difficult for me. I went on my visit and the coach explained to me that she didn’t want me because I was Shelby Wilson’s sister, she wanted me because I was Bailee Wilson.
Now, having only a couple of months left before I sign, I’m confident that Georgia Southern will always be a place that I can call home,” she adds. The ballplayer plans to attend the university for her four years and then continue her education in medical school to become a Trauma Physician.
The athlete admitted that her strength and inspiration to continue her path comes from her strong support system- her family and her faith. “My family, my mom Lisa, my dad, Mike and my sister Shelby, is my rock. They always encourage me to try new things and achieve my goals and dreams. My biggest supporter would have to be my amazing God. Through the ups and downs, He has always been there for me and has given me strength during the times when I was down on myself and when I was struggling to keep going. He gives me courage and guidance and I know that no matter what I do, He will always be my solid ground to stand on. My other biggest supporters would be my family, friends, and teammates. I am thankful for my family for giving me the chance to achieve my dream of playing college softball and for encouraging me and loving me every step of the way. I also want to thank my friends for when I couldn’t hang or go out with them because I had practice or a game. They too, encourage me and cheer me on with everything that I do. And finally, my teammates, nothing in this world compares to the times I have spent with you all and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thank you for being with me through the actual blood, sweat, and tears for softball, I couldn’t have asked for better girls to play and create memories with,” she says.
Sports is not the only area that Bailee Wilson shines; she also has a creative art side and admits it is her second favorite thing to do. During the school year, she spreads her time with other areas as well.  “I am the Vice President for my class on Student Council and I am also a part of many community service clubs at school such as Spanish National Honors Society, Beta Club, Interact Club and 4-H. My most favorite would be cheering on my fellow student athletes as a Rebel Rouser,” she gleefully shared.
Bailee Wilson has an amazing and exciting future ahead of her. She knows the value of hard work and the commitment it takes in achieving success. In closing she lovingly shared, “Softball has been one of the best times of my life. I could not see what the past 10 years of my life would have been like without it. I hope that when my first season starts as an Eagle, I can continue to be not only the best player, but also the best person that I can be. I want to thank anyone that has been with me during my times as a young, growing softball player, you all have shaped me to the person I am today, and I could not have done it without all of you. Thank you to Ms. Julie, Ms. Cindy, and Ms. Sheila for making this article possible and thank you for everyone at Effingham Magazine for continuing to support young and ambitious athletes like myself. And finally, I want to thank God for blessing me with this amazing sport called softball. Without it, I would be nothing.”

Cutting-edge. Innovative. Transformative. TELEMEDICINE

story by Kelly Harley    photos by Tonya Perry

Cutting-edge. Innovative. Transformative. These words can be used to describe the Effingham Health TELEMED program. After its first year in operation at two local schools, the program is expanding and offering students access to health care like never before.

TELEMED in Action
In 2017, Effingham Health System (EHS) launched the TELEMED program in two Effingham County schools, Springfield Elementary and Guyton Elementary. The collaborative effort between EHS, Georgia Partnership for Telehealth and the Effingham County Board of Education has been met with plenty of praise. “Our primary focus is to provide quality, accessible health care to the students and staff in the Effingham County school system,” says Karen Warnell, health services coordinator for Effingham County schools. “We want to have a positive impact on the children’s health, school attendance and academic performance.”
This year, the program is expanding to Sandhill Elementary and Rincon Elementary. Schools are selected by which locations can serve the most children. The goal is to add schools each semester, until all the schools have access to the program. “We looked at the data and carefully chose the schools to implement the program,” says Joe Tallent, community and operations coordinator for EHS. “We decided to start with elementary schools first, and one main benefit of starting the program in lower grades is that the children and parents will already be familiar with how the program works.” Tallent says it is a plus that this encourages parents to feel more involved with the kids’ school life at a young age. During the 2017-2018 school year, there were 34 telemedicine visits. A typical visit is anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

How Does TELEMED Work?
One of the main goals of the program is to get children the care they need. Another goal is to keep them (and faculty) in the classroom as much as possible. So, instead of the children and staff needing to leave school to visit a doctor, they simply make a trip to the school nurse’s office. There, the nurse determines if a telemedicine appointment is necessary and if it is, he or she starts the virtual doctor’s appointment.
EHS doctors and physician assistants then “meet” with patients. Today’s telemedicine visit includes a bluetooth stethoscope, digital cameras, monitors and a digital scope. The physician can see a high-definition picture of the patient and communicates via live cameras and a computer. “We test a lot for strep throat and the flu. We also treat a lot of ear infections,” says Warnell. “If a patient is diagnosed, medications are prescribed and called into the pharmacy.” This means the medication will be ready when the parent goes to pick it up.
Along with increased access to primary health care, decreased emergency room visits, and less time out of the classroom, telemedicine visits save money. “The visits benefit Medicaid, PeachCare for Kids® and private insurers. Parents don’t have to miss as much work and the schools don’t need to hire substitute teachers,” says Warnell. Another benefit is that children receive immediate medical attention. “When we didn’t have telemedicine, the parents would take the child home and they didn’t always go right to the doctor. Telemedicine visits shorten absence time because often times children are treated faster,” adds Warnell. She says the program involves many people working together to create a seamless visit with a provider.
Funding for the Program
This year’s expansion is funded through the Rural Hospital Stabilization grant awarded by the State Office of Rural Health. The grant allowed for the purchase of equipment and software. “The initial outlay is for the equipment. The cost to run the program each year is minimal,” says Tallent. “There is a membership fee that we pay each year and the physicians are compensated by EHS.” The first year of the program was funded by EHS and the Effingham County Board of Education.
While it’s too early to calculate the cost savings, Tallent says they will continue to collect data and compare as the program moves forward. Regardless of those numbers, Tallent says the program is making a difference. “While there are a lot of schools using the school-based telemedicine program, there is no county near us that is doing this,” says Tallent. “It really seems to be the trend and you can essentially have someone seen by a physician across the state.”
The Future of TELEMED
Tallent says when the TELEMED program was brought up, decision makers jumped on board right away. “Our new chief executive officer, Fran Baker-Witt, is a visionary and an outside-of-the-box person. She saw the benefits to the community and gave the go-ahead,” says Tallent. “The pieces came together. The School Board and the providers were excited and loved the idea of telemedicine in our schools.”
After a successful first year and with the expansion this year, both EHS and the Effingham County Board of Education say they want to see the program in every school across the county. “Eventually we want to have telemedicine in every public school in the county. We want this to be a successful program, so we are diligent about our expansion,” says Warnell.
EHS is committed to being on the forefront of transforming healthcare for children and families. “If it’s difficult to get the health care they need, we need to go to them,” says Tallent. “As time goes on, we will work out our plan and add new schools each year. Just having the foresight to step outside of the box a little bit and try something cutting-edge, it says a lot about the whole program and partnership.”

Kastin Belogorska

story by Cindy Burbage     photos by Tonya Perry

Success is not found overnight, but through hard work and great determination. Meet seventeen-year-old, Kastin Belogorska, SEHS softball pitcher- 2017 Region 2-5A, Pitcher of the Year.

     She discovered her love for softball thirteen years ago when starting out in tee ball. After moving to rec softball, Kastin soon landed on a travel team where her career as a pitcher began. “I started pitching at age nine when my dad told me that our team, the Lady Sharks, needed a pitcher. I remember I was running around in the front yard while dad was talking on the phone. When he got off the phone, he said, ‘Kas, how would you like to be pitcher? You know maybe you can just take about five or six lessons.’ I remember feeling hesitant and saying, ‘uh I mean, okay I’ll try a few lessons.’ So, I went to the lessons and when I got to the 6th one, I remember thinking yes!! I am a pitcher now and I don’t have to go back to lessons anymore! And now here I am, like 500 lessons later- loving pitching more than I ever have in my entire life,” the athlete shared. After South Ga Lady Sharks, she played for Effingham Angels and now is a member of Georgia Impact travel team.

     Over her softball career, Kastin has earned an impressive portfolio of awards- 2016 & 2017 Region 2-5A,, 1st Team, 2017 2nd Team All State, 2017 Nomination for Positive Athlete GA, 2017 & 2018 All Greater Savannah 1st Team, Most Productive Hitter, Ace Pitcher Award (2016 & 2017), GPA Award (2015, 2016, 2017) and 2017 Region 2-5A,, Pitcher of the Year. However, one of her most prized earnings, is a scholarship to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Kastin recalled, “It was the fall of my 8th grade year and we were playing with the Effingham Angels, at a showcase in Athens. After the game, my coach, Krissy Arnsdorff, called me and a few of the other girls from my team to talk to her. She told us that a college, Liberty University, was interested in us and wanted us to come to their camp in the winter. At the time, I was excited because it was the first college that was interested in me. To be honest, I hadn’t really heard about Liberty so, I immediately started looking into the school. Turns out it was only the biggest Christian university in the world! I was so excited to go to the camp that winter! Once we got there, we took a tour and looked through all the facilities and rode around campus and I knew that it was the perfect place for me. I was so in love! The next day, camp was even better! I was completely sold!  I went to one more camp in the summer and everything seemed like it fell into place. I felt and knew that God was leading me there. The following winter of my 9th grade year, they offered me a scholarship and I verbally committed to play Division 1 softball at Liberty University under head coach Dot Richardson(1996 Olympic Gold medalist).  I felt so honored and so very excited to have an opportunity to play with such an amazing coaching staff, program and school!”

     Softball is not the only place Kastin shines; her academics are important too. She is a rising senior at SEHS and dual enrolled at Point University. Kastin is a member of the SEHS National Honors Society, FCS (Fellowship of Christian Students), and SEHS Beta Club. The pitcher received the Georgia Certificate of Merit (top 5% ranked academically) for the 2017-2018 school year.

     Although she is reaching for the stars, Kastin has her feet planted. She is involved with the youth group at First Baptist Church of Rincon and will be traveling to Jamaica this summer on a mission trip. “I have always wanted to go on a mission trip and now I have the opportunity! We are leaving June 23 and I am so very excited to have been given the opportunity to share Christ’s love with the people of Jamaica! While there, we will be staying at the Spicy Grove Youth Center which is a center for school age children to come hear about Jesus! That is where we will also be doing the majority of our mission work. I can’t wait to embark on this adventure with some of my closest friends and I can’t wait to see how God works through us and the people in Jamaica,” Kastin humbly shared.

     Kastin’s drive is fueled by her biggest supporters-her family. “My Mom, Donna, is definitely my emotional supporter. She is there for me no matter what! At any point during a game, I can look over to see her watching me and nodding her head saying, ‘You got this.’ It doesn’t matter whether we win the tournament or lose every game, she is always there to give me a big hug. She never stops encouraging me; she also has never failed to send me a pregame pep talk message before each and every game!”

     “My dad, Victor, pushes me. One summer when I was younger, probably age eleven or twelve, he made me throw four buckets of balls each day before I could do anything! There were about 25 balls per bucket, so I was basically pitching 100 pitches a day. I feel like I owe a lot of the things I have been able to do through pitching to that summer. He has also been one of my coaches since I was nine. He’s always been there to help me fix things if something was going wrong or high five when something went right!  My grandparents have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and supported me through all the ups and downs.  I will always cherish the memories I have made with my family through this crazy life of travel ball and school ball. I can’t ever thank them enough for all of support and love they have given me,” Kastin lovingly said.

     Coaches and friends play a part in her success too. “Coach Marie, thank you for my agility and conditioning for the past few years.; you’ve given me the help to strengthen my endurance on the mound. Coach Chuck, thank you for preparing me both mentally and physically for all aspects of the game and for pushing me to always be better. Mrs. Krissy, thank you for all the time and effort you’ve put in to provide the best opportunities for my teammates. Mrs. Mary, thank you for being the best pitching coach in the world to me for the past eight years! Thank you for always pushing me to be a better pitcher and for instilling the confidence in me that I need to be mentally tough on the mound. Coach Downs, thank you for always pushing me beyond what I thought were my limits and making me reach for goals that I thought was unreachable-and for always being the loudest cheerleader at all our games! Coach Cox, thank you for always going out of your way to help me to not only become a better pitcher but most importantly a better person. Coach Jack, thank you for always believing in me; you have taught me to believe in myself. Thank you for always being there to give me a big hug at the end of the day no matter what. My friends have always supported me too; whether it was through a text of encouragement, watching a game or catching a lesson. And lastly, I want to say thank you to my past and current teammates for all the fun memories we’ve made together on and off the field,” Kastin tenderly shared.

     Kastin Belogorska has an exciting future. She meekly closes, “My inspiration definitely comes from God and all that he provides. He has given me this platform to shine His light to show His love to others. He has blessed me with so many opportunities, and I am inspired to make the most of every opportunity for Him and His Glory. I feel with my whole heart that I can accomplish any goal He puts on my heart through the strength that He gives me. Through it all, every up and down, my goal is to glorify Him in all my actions. I know He has a plan for me and I am inspired to work hard and serve Him for His Glory. “

Effingham County Recreation Department : Not Just Sports

story by Cindy Burbage    photos by Shelia Scott

For more than four decades, the Effingham County Recreation Department has been serving its community. It is located at 808 highway 119 south, just tucked behind the Effingham County Health Department.  An array of sports is offered throughout the year to include, but not limited to: basketball, soccer, kickball, volleyball, and football to name a few familiar ones. What many may not be acquainted with are the non-sports that are available, for example, line dancing, Zumba, baton twirling, and senior bingo where the players win canned goods.  The Rec Department also offers special events for the community which include an Easter Egg Hunt and a Candy Cane Hunt.

     The department has recently opened their new sports facility, Clarence E. Morgan Complex on Hwy 21, fondly named after the recreation department’s Director of Recreation and Parks for more than fifty years. They are not just sports- the recreation team caretakes to walking trails, fishing and at least five or six boat ramps.

     Their information can be found on their website: http://www.effinghamcounty.org/289/Recreation-Parks

Jeffrey Lonon- Athletic Director

     Long time Effingham resident, Jeffrey Lonon, has been involved with the Effingham County Recreation Department for a little more than eighteen years.

     Jeffrey’s love of sports and niche for coaching began in high school. “Clarence [Rec Department Director] was a teacher when I was in school here in Effingham. I started working with kids in my 11th grade year because I got hurt playing football and couldn’t play anymore.  I began coaching ninth and tenth graders when I was only in the 11th grade and just kept doing it. I got away from it for a little bit and started doing some other things. When Clarence became the director, he needed an athletic coordinator and I called him up. And I have been here ever since,” Jeffrey shared.

      “I started coaching here when my kid started playing at 3 years old. We started a program called Smart Start. He came up through the rec department and I coached all the way. I even coached when he wasn’t participating here,” Jeffrey reminisced. He has coached many of the sports offered here, including a men’s basketball team that went to district and state. But over the years, football has proven to be his favorite sport.  The rec department is not the only place he shares his experience; you can find him at Effingham County High School as a tight-end coach as well.

     Jeffrey Lonon has lived in Effingham for 52 years and enjoys giving back to his community.  “It’s all about the relationship you form with the kids,” the compassionate coach explains. His experience within recreation department has proven to be twofold, as he is now coaching children of the children he coached in the beginning. He also added, “I would like to thank my wife Vanessa, daughter Olivia, son Jeffery and two granddaughters Natalie and Naomi for their understanding because when you are in the profession that I have chosen, you miss some time with your family, but they have been very understanding and supportive.”

     “One thing I can say that keeps the rec going is the director, Clarence Morgan. He has been here forever and continues to put this place above everything else. There is nothing he would rather do and he is one of the reasons I decide to stay. He is the straw that stirs the tea,” he respectively expressed.

Brenda Bruner- Administrative Assistant

     Brenda Bruner has lived in Effingham for thirty-eight years and has been involved with the Effingham County Recreation Department for twenty years. She was introduced to the recreation department when her oldest daughter began participating in sports; cheerleading was her first coaching experience.  “We moved here in 1980 and when our children began playing ball there were separate associations; it wasn’t just county ball- you had Springfield, Rincon, Guyton, etc. My children played through Springfield and I got affiliated with them and when the association came to the county, of course, I kept right in. I worked 5 years with Effingham Recreation Department prior to working in the school system when my son stated Kindergarten.  I worked 11 years within the school system as a paraprofessional and data clerk.  When Mrs. Brown died in 2009, I came in for the summer and worked until I decided to stay on full time,” Brenda shared.

     “My three children played everything through here: softball, basketball, baseball and soccer. And now I’m coaching my grandchildren,” Brenda lovingly explained. Her daughter coaches one of the soccer teams, showing this to be a true family thing.

     Over the years, there hasn’t been a sport that Brenda Bruner has not coached. “You name it, I coach it,” she said. “I’ve done it all. I even played as I was growing up and played volleyball and softball as an adult,” she continued. And truth be told, she admitted that soccer is her favorite sport to coach.

     The people are what inspires Brenda to continue to work with her community. “The joy you see on their faces; the appreciation that comes back to you. You see the kids as they grow up and they remember everything that you have done for them, it’s overwhelming sometimes. You don’t realize how you touch a kid’s life.”

     She would also like to add that Director, Clarence Morgan, is the backbone of the Recreation Department and everyone including the staff works together as a team to be great!

The Sky Is The Limit : Kourtney Sizemore

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Tonya Perry

After planting her pole in just the right position, Kourtney Sizemore soars through the sky as she confidently strives to make her best mark yet. The potential of this pole vaulting sensation is as endless as the sky above. Kourtney, an Effingham native, is a senior at Savannah State University (SSU). The 2014 Effingham High School graduate is a marine science major. She was awarded a track and field scholarship from SSU prior to beginning her freshman year and has been performing as a track athlete ever since. Her mom, Karmin, and dad, Richard, could not be more proud of her.

     Kourtney’s athleticism stems back to middle school, where she first became interested in track and field. Actually, during 7th grade, she began long-distance running. During her freshman year of high school, along with competing in cross-country and various relays, Kourtney agreed to try the pole vault. She was determined not to be intimidated by the seemingly difficult and unique event. Kourtney persisted to run towards the challenge; she became quite good at it and fell in love with the sport over time.

     “I’ve been hooked on it ever since I tried the first jump,” she insists.

     SSU currently competes under the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), whose colleges are made up of notably talented and distinguished Division 1 athletes. That said, Kourtney dedicates herself to continuous training, specifically for the pole vault, in order to prepare for the indoor track conference in the fall and the outdoor conference in the spring, each being a series of competitions leading to a final championship.

     “Being a Division 1 athlete, you have so much more responsibility and pressure, but you get more knowledge of what your actual sport is,” Kourtney remarks.

     Interestingly enough, as only a freshman, Kourtney broke the school’s outdoor pole vault record with a vault of 3.20m. Since, she has continued to break her own records and even set a new school indoor record of 3.31m her junior year, after finishing third place at the MEAC Indoor Championship. She followed that by setting a new school pole vault record of 3.35m last spring at the SSU Eye Opener Track Meet. This past track season, Kourtney placed fifth at the MEAC Championship, after delivering an admirable and impressive performance, as she chose to perform through the healing process from a notable injury. In fact, she had a medical boot on her foot throughout the competition; however, she removed it each time she had to compete.

     “It was a really tough competition; I don’t regret anything,” Kourtney comments.

     She does not take for granted all the athletic mentors that have helped her become the remarkable athlete that she is today. Ted Whitaker is the SSU head track coach. Kourtney is grateful for all of his help, including the overall leadership, knowledge and skill that he brings to the program. She also has tremendous gratitude for her jumping coach, Repel Martin.

     “He has really gotten me into shape. He is the one I work with on a daily basis,” Kourtney says.

     Further, she is appreciative for all the efforts of her first pole vault coach, Ed Hissam, who was with her during freshman and sophomore years. She received her first real vault training as a collegiate athlete from him.

     “He actually truly made me understand what pole vaulting was and the technique for it. He made me understand it better. He re-taught me everything, so I actually learned how to pole vault through him,” she recalls.

     Kourtney knows that much of her growth and current skill with the vault is largely credited to the coaching of Kenneth McDaniel, her present vault coach, who has helped her develop her technique.

     “When I began working with Coach Kenneth McDaniel, I got a lot better. I had more access to poles with him–full sets of the ones I needed. When it came to the indoor championship, I did ten times better than I thought I would,” Kourtney reveals.

     Kourtney is extremely proud to represent the SSU Tigers and feels privileged to compete alongside such an extraordinary team. They have been there throughout her athletic growth; she knows that much of the learning and inspiration from her team has helped her to grow into a better athlete and overall leader.

     “I’ve learned a lot from them; I’ve had so much fun,” she says.

     In addition, Kourtney is thankful for the help of Dr. Mary Carla Curran, who has been a true mentor throughout her senior research project, titled, The Interaction of the Daggerblade Grass Shrimp Palaemonetes pugio with artificial red algae at different tidal stages. Kourtney aspires to “eventually go to graduate school to obtain a psychology degree in animal behavior.”

     “That’s something I’m passionate about—the well-being of animals,” she states.

     Moreover, Kourtney feels that she owes the world to two of her biggest and most selfless fans: her mom and dad. Their love, support and guidance have largely shaped her into who she is today.

     “My mom was the emotional support. My dad was that stern voice telling me right from wrong. They both equally inspired me to do more with my life,” she says. Kourtney also appreciates the support given by her big sister Annsleigh and twin brother Kasey. She laughs as she mentions that Kasey feels that he is really her big brother since he is a whole one minute older.

     Kourtney hopes that she is a role model for other aspiring athletes and young people, offering both sincere and inspiring words, saying, “As long as you have drive and passion, you will achieve what you could never dream of. I didn’t win all the big trophies or medals, but I did win a great work ethic, a sense of responsibility and learned how to be a team player. I found that I could do whatever I put my mind to. In the words of Colin Powell, retired US National Security Advisor, ‘There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure,”’ she states.

     The future for Kourtney Sizemore is as promising and bright as the sky above her…the limitless sky, that is.

     “Don’t let the fear of falling keep you from flying.”

                                                 ~Anonymous