Riggs, Neighborhood Bridges program two examples of outreach to others

Haleyville Civitan Club President Chad Fell presents Director of Student Services Susan Riggs a plaque on behalf of the club in recognition of her work with those with special needs.

HALEYVILLE  - Two examples of service to the needs of students at Haleyville City School were illustrated in a special award presented by the Haleyville Civitan Club to Director of Student Services Susan Riggs and instructions for the new online program Neighborhood Bridges.
Those in the community who are servants to those in need are a major focus of the Haleyville Civitan Club, and recently club members met with school officials and students at the Family and Consumer Science building to present the award to Riggs at a special lunch. 
The Haleyville Civitan Club each quarter honors people from the community for their diligence and help with those with special needs.
Susan Riggs, director of student services, was chosen based on her selfless and devoted services to students of HCS, with an outreach far beyond her role.
“Thank you for the recognition,” Riggs stated. “There are many people who deserve it.
“I always feel like I was put here to serve,” she added. “I enjoy being a leader in some ways, but I still enjoy serving more than anything,” Riggs added.
It was important to be a servant to those who may not have the same opportunities as others. “So, it’s important for me to advocate for and to help our students or adults...that have a need, no matter what that need is,” Riggs added.
A graduate of Haleyville High School, Riggs (maiden name Susan Carey)  went to college at Northwest Shoals Community in 1994 and Athens in 1996.
She began her career in 1998, in special education at Haleyville High School, moving to elementary assistant principal in 2007 then principal the following year.
In 2014, Riggs was moved to the central office as Director of Student Services.
High School Principal Davey Reed noted that  Riggs took an opportunity to help someone who was sick while attending an administrative meeting as well as comforting the victim’s family.
“Just amazing at what she does,” Reed stated. Riggs also took time to help Reed with student schedules.
“She took what had taken me six days to do, and we sat there and did it in less than six hours,” Reed pointed out. “It’s just amazing at the knowledge she has that is shared with our students,” Reed continued.
“I just want to say thank you and appreciate what you do, because you make our jobs so much easier,” he added.
John McCullar, assistant principal over the center of technology, noted he appreciated Lila Dodd’s Family and Consumer Science students for preparing the food for the lunch.
“We are proud of our school. We are proud of our kids and we have great kids at Haleyville  City Schools,” McCullar said.
McCullar recalled when he and Riggs were both in the classroom collaborating on special populations, as well as when Riggs was principal and he assistant principal at the  elementary school for five years.
“I always say she has had the best interest of the students in mind,” McCullar said. “If I ever have an issue, any question about anything legal concerning special populations, the first thing I do is call Mrs. Riggs.
“She will be the first to fight for her kids that she deals with,” McCullar added. “She will also be the first to hold them accountable for things, and I am thankful for that.
“We’ve been through a lot over the years together,” McCullar continued. “We’re proud of Mrs. Riggs.”
High School Assistant Principal Candy Garner, who also works as the system’s STEAM coordinator, noted that last year when she returned to work in the school system, she did not know Riggs very well, but that soon changed.
“She made me feel so welcome from day one and  I am grateful for that,” Garner said.
“If you ever need to get into the school and it’s after hours, her car would be here,” she added. “She is just one of the hardest working people I have ever been around.”
HCS Superintendent Dr. Holly Sutherland noted that Riggs is great to reach out and really feel the needs of students and help them.
“Mrs. Riggs is one of the most outstanding educators I have ever been around,” Dr. Sutherland noted. “She works tirelessly to do what is best for all kids.
“She goes out of her way to ensure every student’s social, emotional and academic needs are met. We are blessed to have her working for the students of Haleyville City Schools,” Dr. Sutherland added.
Neighborhood Bridges Program Truly an Asset to Haleyville Schools
Along the lines of helping those with needs, Dr. Sutherland noted the school’s Facebook page has an ongoing mission to reach out and help students.
By partnering with Kith Kitchens, HCS counselors who receive needs from parents, students, fellow counselors or teachers, can go onto the social media platform and post that, for instance, a student at the elementary school needs a winter coat, size 6.
Those in the community, who have signed up through the school’s email, will receive a mass email once a week which lists the needs at the school for that week, Dr. Sutherland continued.
Those from the community are welcome to choose one of the listed needs and commit to filling that need, she added.
The coat, pair of shoes, money a child needs for a field trip, whatever the need, can be brought to the central office, where school officials will deliver the items to the counselor which will present to the student in need, Dr. Sutherland informed.
“It’s an anonymous donation,” Dr. Sutherland noted. “What we have found is, in the past, when we have said we need a couple of pairs of shoes, someone cleans out their closet of things a teenager might not wear or be comfortable wearing, or we will get 10 pairs of shoes and they would try to find out where to distribute those.”
The online Neighborhood Bridges program helps simplify that process.
“It give us a very efficient way to meet needs for our kids,” Dr. Sutherland said. “All we ask from our community is that you enter your email address.”
People going online to take part in this program are under no obligation to help each and every time a need is listed, only the weeks when they can, the superintendent explained.
“Most of the needs will be very small,” she said. “We’re really excited and we think it is going to give us a way to really organize some of the needs our kids are having.
“We just think it’s a real easy way for us to get some things done for kids in a very (discreet) way. It’s anonymous.
This project, along with Mrs. Riggs are two great examples to remind that a school system is much more than a test score. 
“We have to take care of our kids first,” Dr. Sutherland noted. “If your needs are met, then you are ready to learn and you are more prepared.”

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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