Thanks to the efforts of Durham Middle School students BethAnn Shires and Ryan Mulkey and teachers Thomas Panter and Mandy Martin, the entire state of Georgia will celebrate the first-ever “Georgia Month” in September 2012. Governor Nathan Deal signed a resolution March 27 establishing September as a statewide month of Georgia history and character education, with the team from Durham (and some important allies) alongside him.
So how did a pair of inquisitive eighth graders turn an idea into reality? BethAnn and Ryan approached their Georgia history teacher Thomas Panter with a vision for honoring the character values and accomplishments of Georgia founder James Oglethorpe. Through research, they discovered the long-dormant recognition of Georgia Day, established in 1909 to celebrate statehood on Feb. 12 each year. BethAnn and Ryan, with assistance from Mr. Panter and Langauge Arts teacher Mandy Martin, drafted a letter to Senator Steve Thompson, proposing a new concept for Georgia Day that celebrates character and positive choices during the month of September. Sen. Thompson jumped at the idea, visiting Durham Middle School to work with the team at Durham to draft a new Georgia Day resolution for the state Senate! The resolution swiftly passed both the Senate and House, arriving on the desk of Gov. Deal.
Beth Ann and Ryan’s idea impressed Gov. Deal so much, he proposed expanding Georgia Day into an entire month of celebrating Georgia’s history and the positive character traits exhibited by Georgians, past and present. Both students, along with Mr. Panter, Ms. Martin and their families were special guests at the State Capitol on March 27 for the resolution signing. The Senate recognized BethAnn and Ryan on the floor for their hard work emphasizing the importance of character in Georgia. A gallery from their visit is below: