by Jennifer Yarbrough
You may already know that Bartram Trail High School has a new bear at the helm, as former Assistant Chris Phelps was appointed Principal in April. But did you know that a few days after receiving the news he had knee replacement surgery? And now, a few months later, he is back cycling the 25-miles to work? That could pretty much sum up Mr. Phelps’ personality, work ethic and leadership.
As Assistant Principal at Bartram Trail since it’s opening in 2000, he has lead in a way that has inspired students and teachers to be their best and strive for excellence, no matter what. His advice for parents of high schooolers is to support their students, but then put them on that bike and let them go…let them pedal as fast or slow as they need to and let them steer themselves in the direction they will go, always staying a safe distance to pull them back on the trail when need be. To students, he quotes former Bartram student, Andrew Dill, who, when addressing Freshmen his Senior year told them that it is exciting being in High School and having more freedoms, but “increased freedom, means increased responsibility.”
And Mr. Phelps says to “grab it,” encouraging students to meet and know every adult on campus, a skill that will help them throughout life. He also speaks of the importance of learning communication and writing skills in class and outside of class, because these skills will lay the foundation for many aspects of their life after high school. A new, proactive program that Mr. Phelps and teachers are excited about is, “Link Crew,” which matches Freshmen with Upperclassmen in a leadership/mentorship setting. Upperclassmen receive training in leadership skills and Freshmen find mentors that can help them navigate the world of high school.
Many teachers, past and present, parents and students have expressed their enthusiasm for Mr. Phelps’ appointment, Carole Prior, who worked for five years when Phelps was AP says, “He has the HEART of a LION, the ZEAL of a CHAMPION and the LEADERSHIP SKILLS that the CAPTAIN of the STARSHIP must have!” Current teacher, Mrs. Jane Jens who has worked with him most of her career states, “I have complete confidence that he's the leader we need at BTHS. His calm competence, kindness, and steel backbone assure me that he'll do the right thing. Great choice for us!"
Having spent fourteen years at Nease High School and now fifteen years at Bartram Trail High School, Mr. Phelps is a great choice for the school and this area. He talks with pride of working with “the same folks, the same families,” over the years and of building relationships and trust with them, he feel like he wants to give back to the community that “has given him so much.”
Alright Bears, get on your cycles and start pedaling, you’ve got an amazing Principal leading the way!
Have you ever felt homesick?
Local business owner and Belgian, Bjorn Huyssman of Fly-Drive-Rent, a car service serving the First Coast, received a visit from a unique traveler this summer. Her name is Séverine Dehon and she is a Belgian living in the United States who decided to find a solution to her homesickness by writing an intercultural blog about Belgians living in the United States. She wanted to discover how they coped with the challenges of culture shock and homesickness and thought it would be fun to document her journey.
Each time she meets a new Belgian friend, she interviews them, takes their portrait (she is a photographer) and also she asks them to sign her car, which is how her project, Sign My Car was born. The stories she has collected have helped her outgrow her difficulties and she hopes it will serve others who may be experiencing the same feelings.
The production of Sign My Car! started in April 2015 and will be completed in 2016. Séverine is going to all 48 states of continental USA. Each time she meets another Belgian, she ask them to Sign Her Car!
According to Séverine, “This project explores the struggles and joys of creating a new home in a foreign country through the lives of Belgian immigrants. It talks about finding a new balance between two worlds while remaining oneself. Through my interviews and photo-essays, I hope to build a bridge among cultures to promote multiculturalism, mutual respect and compassion.” She continued, “This journey has led me to the most amazing people. Every story I hear helps me overcome a difficulty and makes me a better person. And they help other people too.”
Séverine has completed the Midwest and Southeast leg of her tour of the United States. It is interesting to hear about life in the United States from a Belgian’s perspective; what they love and what they find difficult. Bjorn says although it was challenging to get an entrepreneur’s VISA, it was worth it. “I never regret the move from Belgium to the United States.”. He loves the fact that everyone is freindly and since his business is driving, he appreciates the good road conditions.
You can find more about this adventure on www.SignMyCar.org where you can click on the signatures to read their story and listen to their video blog. You can also follow Sign My Car! on Twitter and Facebook.
St. Johns Magazine