The way I keep informed to any level of what is happening in my hometown of Marshall, MI is through my high school classmates and friends who still live there and are actively involved in the community.
Recently, through some postings on Facebook, I became aware of a difficult decision that was made by the school board of the town located to the east of my hometown. Due to severe financial difficulties, that school board voted to close down its high school and enter into an agreement with Marshall Public Schools, one which would see its high school students sent to Marshall High School. The Marshall School Board and staff offered this possibility of this joint effort.
Understandably, there are those who are skeptical due to the vastly different natures of the makeup of each community. Marshall, MI is, according to city-data.com, is 92.4% Caucasian in its population with a median income of $43,422. Albion, MI is, again according to city-data.com, is 39.1% minority with a median income of $25,468. Concerns have been raised about racial struggles and the impact this agreement will have on both communities. There have been isolated incidents to which some point as evidence that this agreement is doomed to fail.
I respectfully disagree with those who believe this is destined to be a failure and for one reason: leadership.
Two members of the Marshall Board of Education are friends and high school classmates of mine: Annette Campau and Rich Lindsey. Even though our interactions have been limited to Facebook due to geographical limitations, I sense their heart and desire to see this succeed.
Leadership is not easy; it is difficult. Leadership is about envisioning the future and leading people who may not necessarily be able to see it into it. It is about staying the course because you believe in it. It is about helping others grow beyond themselves as they see a common goal become a reality.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” It is believing in the future as you have seen it and shaping the consensus of others to see that future as well so that they join their efforts, skills, desires, strengths and abilities with others who are already doing so.
This new relationship is full of incredible potential, not only on an educational level, but on a regional community level. This new relationship will have the ability to forge a strong regional unity that will make the communities of both Albion and Marshall stronger beyond the educational aspect.
As a pastor, I would encourage my clergy peers of the churches of Marshall to lend their support to this effort and be on the forefront of this incredible opportunity so as to see any healing that might be needed occur and see a unity on a regional level unlike any other.
May God’s grace, love and presence shower upon all who are leading in this new day.