Christmas Traditions at Boyd County Middle School

Christmas Traditions at Boyd County Middle School

Lora Parsons

The Ashland Beacon

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One might think that the phrase “family traditions” only relates to an actual family--related by blood, sharing the same DNA. But, step into any school to find that family traditions extend beyond the walls of home. Having spent 21 years teaching at Boyd County Middle School, I can easily say this time of year is magical because we share so many of those traditions. The preparation for Christmas begins early--following Fall Break--because tracking down the wheeled garbage cans that house our tree takes time. Getting the tree up is a group effort and a several-day event, shared by multiple adults and students who are eager to help. Melissa Prater, BCMS Library Media Specialist said this is one of her favorite parts of our Christmas tradition: “I love sharing the experience of putting up the Christmas decorations with the children…and listening to Christmas music while we work.” With borrowed decor from family and friends, this year’s Movie Night theme provided the perfect foundation for the rest of our decorating efforts. The theme changes from year to year, but the goal never does:  every person in the building makes an ornament to hang!  This year’s ornament allowed creators to draw a self-portrait or scene from a movie, hanging them on or near the tree in the school’s front lobby. Kenzy, a seventh grader, commented this group-decorating is one her favorite parts of Christmas at BCMS--that and the fundraisers we do to help our community. Those things, according to her, “Impact people mentally and physically” [They] make people happy and excited and the building just POPs and lights up!” Finishing the decor by Thanksgiving Break ensures that when we return, the building is ready for other events that follow.

 

 

Many of the events that help spark holiday spirit happen within the classrooms of individual teachers, who are masters at finding ways to incorporate Christmas-themed activities into their content. Math teacher, Leah Dixon, usually has students “make a geome-tree [Geometry] where they fold 3-D nets into ornaments.” Eighth grade Language Arts students read “The Gift of the Magi” and learn literary elements and vocabulary, while also examining closely the spirit of giving that is at the heart of that classic. In Art class, students work on creating ornaments for the annual Festival of Trees and Trains entry. Band and Choir performances usually happen the week before Christmas Break begins, complete with winter-themed songs. Theater students put on a Christmas play— this year’s being A Christmas Carol. And, because Christmas, itself, is a piece of our culture, its very presence is a part of the learning, also. The holiday season presents many opportunities for teachers to bring current cultural Christmas experiences into their classrooms.

While learning is certainly not sacrificed in exchange for fun, there is a little of that scattered into our traditions, as well. A recently-added fan favorite is the annual Holiday Whobilation. Students rotate through carnival-style holiday games during their Related Arts classes and enjoy some relationship-building time with their core teachers. Wrapping up learning topics before a long break presents teachers the golden opportunity of cultivating the relationships that must flourish in order for students to learn best. The heart of all learning comes directly from a place of mutual respect and feeling safe enough to take learning risks. Strong relationships are imperative, and building those takes time that events like the Holiday Whobilation affords teachers and students.

Many celebrations and in-class experiences provide students with moments of holiday magic, but staff traditions are also part of what makes BCMS feel like family. Our building-wide Secret Santa opportunity requires volunteer “Santas” to purchase a small gift for their unknowing recipient for four days and then reveal their identity with a larger fifth gift the Friday before Christmas Break begins. Students inevitably get in on the fun of this community-building tradition by delivering gifts for teachers throughout the week. And, teams within the building often have their own traditions unique to their particular area. One group of teachers draws names and celebrates with breakfast potluck, while another group gathers for an ornament-exchange and dinner. Our cafeteria even has a very special “elf” on a shelf. And, the whole building comes together for a staff luncheon, an extra special time where we all are afforded a moment to be together. Administrators serve the main course, and staff members bring in the fixin’s to round out the meal while our Central Office staff, their own work laid aside for a bit, help supervise students. It’s truly a special moment. Bethany Crouch, Art teacher, shared of this time together, “It’s the precious time that we get once a year to recharge and celebrate…to look around and remember how much support we have that at no point in our careers at BCMS do we have to go through anything alone.” This moment allows us to BE a family.

Looking out for the needs of our BCMS families and greater community tops the list of what I love most about our traditions. Every year, our Family Resource Center helps provide Christmas for Boyd County families and Beta students get to help. Students won’t know who receives the items they purchase, but they get to exercise the art of giving nonetheless. They also have similar opportunities to help with other community outreach programs such as Woodland Oaks’ current Adopt-A-Resident initiative. Additionally, they recently raised nearly $1000 to donate to our Family Resource Center through a collaborative fundraiser that involved students from Art, Choir, Life Skills and Communication Arts. In many ways, during this time of year, whether it’s directly content-related or not, students are growing. Their minds may not be the focal point of that growth the week before Christmas Break, but their hearts and our community certainly are. Education comes in many forms and may look a little different at this time of the year, but maybe, in a building that makes space for looking outward, beyond our own wants and needs--maybe, just maybe the learning is greater at this time of year than any other. It may not register fully on state-mandated tests, but the lesson remains:  We all become family at Christmas time.

Phlebotomy Plus: Saving Lives One Vein at a Time

Phlebotomy Plus: Saving Lives One Vein at a Time

Sasha Bush

The Ashland Beacon

 Medical Assisting Classes

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Next to creating a life, the finest thing a man can do is save one.”

Located just within the heart of our community at 1212 Bath Ave., Ashland, in the Sky Tower Suite 15, a new phlebotomy business has emerged, bringing with it a mission to make a life-saving impact through the art of drawing blood. This innovative venture not only serves as a vital healthcare service but also stands out for its commitment to excellence and compassion.

 

 

The business, aptly named Phlebotomy Plus, was started in 1989 by a lady by the name of Kathy Harris. Back in 2022, Harris decided it was time to sell her beloved business. As luck would have it, a former student of Harris’ was interested in purchasing the business. Amy Frasher, who is the new owner of Phlebotomy Plus and a graduate of Phlebotomy Plus’ class of 2005, has been in the business of saving lives one vein at a time for 18 years. Frasher shared, “My passion has always been in phlebotomy. Being a phlebotomist is just one of those things that you just either love it, or you don’t. There is no in-between, and I have always kept in close contact with Kathy. So, that is what led me to want to buy the school and pursue the school.”

Upon purchasing the school, Frasher shared she had a five-year goal to add a new program to the school every year. “We added an EKG program at the beginning of 2023, and then we also got approval through the state of Kentucky, (The Education Commission) for our medical assistant class. We just had our first medical assistant class finish, up and we graduated 15 graduates.”

The startup of classes is always in rotation, so finding the perfect time to start should not be a problem. Frasher noted, “With the phlebotomy classes, we usually offer it about every 10 weeks. We just finished up our first medical assisting class, and we are getting ready to start up our next round of that class in Jan. with two evenings a week. Then, we will be starting up a daytime class that will start at the beginning of Feb.” The EKG classes also have multiple options for start dates throughout the year.

If you or someone you know might be interested in taking part in any of these classes, you can contact Amy at 606.325.2091. “Once you contact us, we work with you to go over all the things you need to do in order to get started in one of our programs. You do have to take an entrance exam, and we will go over all the details of your program. The great thing about our programs is that they are all very much hands-on and in-person. No part of it is online.”

Frasher was very excited to share most recently that six of her program graduates have been hired by various organizations upon graduating. “I have had St. Mary’s, Cabell, and HIMG reach out to us looking for employees and to have our students do clinicals there.” Phelbotomy Plus does offer financial aid.

As Phlebotomy Plus sets a new standard in phlebotomy services, it becomes a beacon of hope for those seeking to enter into the field of phlebotomy which has an ever-growing need for caring and compassionate people.

Christmas Gift-Giving Guide

Christmas Gift-Giving Guide

Lora Parsons

The Ashland Beacon

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In the midst of the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we sometimes find ourselves lost over what to give to those we care about.  Morning news broadcasts offer ideas for every budget; online ads pop up with direct links to last-minute finds; wives drop not-so-subtle hints in order to try to help their husbands.  But, most of us would agree that one-size-fits-all gifts aren’t the kind we most like to receive.

 

 

While we’d all say time with our family or the presence (not presents) of friends matters most, if we’re completely honest, most of us do also love to receive gifts.  Meaningful ones.  But, therein lies the problem.  Gift-giving can be flat out difficult.  How does one go about giving a gift that’s truly appreciated and valued, not tossed to the donate pile?  Perhaps some targeted thinking might help.

 

Are there inside jokes or mutual experiences you share with the person you’re trying to buy for?  If so, those might be a good source for a gift idea.  A beach-themed ornament with the location and date of a trip you shared together…a picture of you and the recipient with the longitude and latitude of the place you shared your starter home...a Chinese take-out box containing a gift card to their favorite restaurant along with a meet-me-there-anytime note…a new pair of sunglasses to replace the ones your sister always whines about you losing back when you were sixteen.  The important thing to note is what emotions do you want to bring up--a sense of gratitude for the time you’ve spent together, comfort that comes from sharing moments with someone, a reminder of how important this person is to you?  Personalized gifts based on experiences you’ve shared can range from practical to sentimental but always result in an emotional reaction--a reminder of some connection you shared.

 

Another consideration could be their physical features or identifying tendencies.  Does the person you need a gift for have any sort of identifying features like blue eyes, wildly curly hair, constantly cold hands, or an old injury that causes them pain?  Is there a gift embedded in those characteristics?  Maybe a make-up palette they’d never buy themselves that highlights blue eyes or a hair care kit made for curly locks that includes a Wet Brush and bedazzled headband.  How about a trendy belt bag that doubles as a hand warmer for their upcoming trip to New York City.  You might give a self-care kit that includes a salon massage certificate, a set of lotions for home, and a heat-activated wrap for when old injuries flare up?  Closely examining a person’s physical features could provide the inspiration for a perfect gift.

 

Photo gifts are also a crowd favorite.  Gifting pictures to someone can provide them a way to relive memories they’ve shared already.  Busy mom of two, Amy Tackett, suggests making gifts a keepsake.  “The last three years, I made photo books for my kids…to highlight all their special moments for that year.  The kids really appreciate them, and I think they’re the best gifts ever.”  One of my own all-time favorite gifts is a picture gift from my husband and kids.  They know I love to create so ordered a custom paint-by-number canvas of my favorite picture of Olivia and Ethan at the beach.  Not only did I enjoy painting it, but it’s been hanging on the wall ever since, providing us all the pleasure of recalling that trip.  Another favorite photo gift we’ve received over the years has been in the form of family photo sessions.  Many photographers offer gift certificates that can be creatively presented in a picture frame to fill once the photos have been taken.  The end result of picture gifts is always something to treasure!

 

If photo gifts don’t quite work, but a keepsake gift is up your alley, perhaps consider linking the gift to an experience or event.  If your recipient attended a memorable concert or performance, a shirt, print, or piece of memorabilia might be appreciated.  If the experience you’d like to memorialize was a trip, bring a piece of that experience into their daily life.  An afghan, pillow, or piece of art could highlight the place they love.  Gifting future experiences is another way to provide loved ones with new memories.  You could purchase tickets to a show you know they’d enjoy or pay for a night away at a not-too-distant cabin.  Melissa Prater, busy mom of two and lover of all things social, says:  “I love the gift of time with people.  An experience with the ones you love” is a great way to provide new memories for everyone to cherish.

 

Though some claim that gift cards are an impersonal gift, even those can be presented in a personal manner.  Get a small item to go with a gift card that illustrates your connection; for example, an ornament shaped like a microwave for the co-worker down the hall who uses yours everyday.  Add a pack of your friend’s favorite pens or lunch cakes to the gift card for their favorite restaurant.  Put your sister’s favorite candy bars in a cute zipper pouch along with the gift card to her favorite store.  Get gift cards to Broadway Books and The Mill and invite a friend you’ve not seen in too long to an afternoon outing.  There are lots of ways that even “just” a gift card can feel personal and meaningful.

 

The key to any gift is something we’ve been taught from the time we were little:  it’s the thought that counts.  Choosing just the right gift says you know the person you’re giving to; it says you see them; you appreciate them; you value their presence in your life.  Whatever giving you do this holiday season--whether big or small--see it as an opportunity to send a message, not just a present.  Start your shopping with the question:  What do I want my gift to say?  Saying the right thing is much more important than buying the right thing.

The Dancer’s Bag Gets Bigger as Acro Classes Take the Stage

The Dancer’s Bag Gets Bigger as Acro Classes Take the Stage

Gwen Akers

The Ashland Beacon

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Dance is perhaps one of the most beautiful forms of expression, a universal language. Ashland’s home for dance, the Ashland Regional Dance Theater, is bringing this expression to a whole new level with its newest addition: Acro Dance Classes.

Acro Dance is a cross between gymnastics and dance, where aspects of dance are added to tumbling. It first emerged in North America in the early 1900s where it was utilized in various theatrical performances. While it is often considered a modern dance style, it has a long history tracing back to traditional Chinese dance.

 

 

This gives a more flowing element to the usually rigid art form of tumbling. Stephens described this as a more “fluent” and thus “neat” performance compared to that of tumbling, where classical dance techniques are combined with precise acrobatic movements. This style of dance also gives students more creative freedom in the dance, as aspects of ballet, jazz, and even tap are sometimes added to give the performance both personality and flair.

“What we do is during the tumbling class, we take aspects of dance and add it to tumbling,” expressed Stacy Stephens, head of the Acro Dance Program. “It takes your acro skill and makes it more fluent.”

During her certification process, Stephens was part of a two-day intensive course taught by Canadian Acrobatic Arts. This certification coupled with her extensive experience in gymnastics and cheerleading through the Junior Olympics, her time as a cheerleading coach at Ashland Middle School, and her experience at Tumble World. Stephens has since been working for ARDT for nine years and is now head of the Acro Dance program.

Stephens capitalized on the importance of safety in her classes, as well as her teaching style of teaching with progression.

“I've always taught with progression. You know, you have to have this skill before I will teach you this skill, and this program kind of reiterates that,” commented Stephens.

Besides being a style of dance all on its own, Acro Dance is also a great stepping stone and enrichment class that helps students become better dancers overall. Stephens explained that yoga-type moves, focused on building and retaining flexibility, are fundamental in the class.

“A lot of the benefit from the class is to take an acro class before you take a dance class, so your body's already stretched and ready to go,” explained Stephens.

Stephens is also a pediatric nurse and expressed her excitement in getting to teach the class and being able to share her love of dance with her students. Being a dance instructor is all about the connection you make with students, and helping these students be successful in both dance and their lives. Dance, just like everything else is built on collaboration, and the connection you have with both your teacher and your students makes all the difference.


“I've always felt that my job is not to teach that cartwheel exactly or to teach that backbend or back handspring, my job is to make that impression on that child’s life,” expressed Stephens.

Students interested should check out the ARDT website or call for more information.

New Bilingual Service at CornerStone Methodist Church

New Bilingual Service at CornerStone Methodist Church

Lora Parsons

The Ashland Beacon

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The top line of the screen reads: “Levanto un aleluya, mÍ arma melodia es” while the bottom line contains the words: “I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody.” And, there are folks in the congregation fluent in both Spanish and English, worshipping simultaneously in their own native tongue. CornerStone Methodist Church on 29th Street in Ashland provides a space where this bilingual experience occurs every Sunday. On the surface, it looks like church in two languages. On a deeper level, there is an intentional design to not merely provide a place where native-Spanish speakers can understand the service, but rather, to provide a place where a unique community is established that seeks to worship, grow closer to God, share life together with other believers … and where all of that just happens to be done in two languages at once. The goal in its earliest stages was to meet a need in the community, but the heart behind it all is much more than linguistic.

 

It doesn’t take long in speaking with Lead Pastor Keith Katterheinrich to learn that there’s much more to this service than just two languages. His goal, when planning began more than a year ago, was not to merely translate words; he wanted a bilingual community to emerge. Visiting this service — whether in person or through Facebook Live — means hearing and seeing both English and Spanish speakers actively participating in all aspects of a worship service. While the church’s other two services (English-only traditional service at 9:30 a.m. and English-only contemporary 11:00 a.m.) may be preferable to congregants, many show up early to the bilingual service to completely embrace the community that this service is designed to accommodate. Katterheinrich stressed the idea that: “We are all part of the same family. This isn’t about us being landlords for another community meeting in our space. This is about us all being the church together.”

The idea for the service came about during a conversation that Katterheinrich had with a Servpro representative about a year and a half before the first service was launched. During this encounter, the native Spanish speaker told Katterheinrich that there was no Protestant bilingual service in the area, but there was definitely a population of believers who would benefit from one. The thinking, dreaming, praying, and planning began. Katterheinrich was most focused in those early stages on making sure that it was a ministry that their congregation was being called to fulfill. He had no doubts that someone should jump in, but he was most concerned about whether God was calling CornerStone to be the place for that community to be established. Of secondary concern was what he perceived as his own limitation: not being as fluent in Spanish as he would need to be. As a result of a message given by the church’s Associate Pastor, John Carwell, Katterheinrich was stirred to action.

In reality, though, the preparation for this endeavor had begun years before. Katterheinrich had studied Spanish in both high school and college. He had a foundation on which to build. Eight trips post-college to Costa Rica for mission-type work further strengthened his Spanish and proved that God had been paving the way for this service for years. Katterheinrich additionally enrolled in a Spanish immersion school in Antigua, Guatemala. The first two weeks of September were spent speaking and hearing only Spanish for the biggest part of his day, increasing not only his fluency but also his confidence in being prepared for the service that lay ahead. That occurred for the first time on Sept. 24 of this past year. “It was important to me to be able to PREACH in Spanish, not just have the message translated.” And, that took a little bit of work.

That work paid off, though, as preaching in Spanish is exactly what Katterheinrich has been able to do. A sentence of his message is delivered in Spanish first and then is translated into English by his son, Benjamin, taking turns back and forth to translate both languages for their bilingual audience. During the worship time, screens display song lyrics first in Spanish and then below in English to make the meaning accessible to speakers of both languages. And, the songs themselves are sung in a mixture of languages, sometimes with the worship leader, Stacia Carwell, singing a chorus once in Spanish and then a second time in English — a beautiful mixture of both languages, blended seamlessly into one unified message of praise. Prayer requests are taken from the congregation first in the native language of whoever is making the request, and then translated by Katterheinrich into the other. Every element of a traditional service is thoughtfully delivered so that the service feels fully bilingual — not simply a Spanish translation of an English service. The immersion experience feels authentic and organic in an intentional effort to ensure that everyone knows this is a place they belong, equally.

Only a few months old, it’s difficult to pinpoint just what kind of impact the service is having on the Spanish-speaking community in our area, but it hasn’t been difficult to see the impact on the church itself. A fellow bilingual pastor shared with Katterheinrich that “The gospel is a welcoming message; we have to learn to welcome people.” And, that’s exactly what the CornerStone congregation has done. When Katterheinrich brushed up on his Spanish, the church followed suit. Benjamin Katterheinrich began teaching a Spanish Phrases class where churchgoers learned common sayings, like “Bienvenidos (Welcome!)” and “Nos alegramos de que esté aquí (We’re glad you’re here!)” In addition to the growth in their own Spanish, the congregation has also benefited from a sense of unity. Some church members attend one of the English services as well as the bilingual service to show their support, but a lot of other area churches have participants in this service as well. The cross-cultural service has proven to be a cross-denominational service, also. Breaking down language barriers has led to an unexpected benefit of breaking down cultural, age, worship-style, and denominational barriers as well. A community of believers, arms open, now awaits anyone hoping to find a bilingual Protestant service in the Ashland area.