High school students work to dedicate highway in honor of veterans

Westbrook Christian students plan fundraising efforts

The first road in Alabama to honor recent veterans is likely to be in Etowah County.

Twelfth grade students at Westbrook Christian School in Rainbow City want to dedicate portions of highway 411 to the soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The class is working with local legislators and city councils to approve the honorary naming of the road and to post road signs.

The signs will cost about $2500, and the students are working to raise that money themselves.

The class set up a Facebook page for their highway project, which provides updates about the progress as well as information about their fundraising efforts.

The project started when history and government teacher Tammy Bean tasked her students with a project to bring improvement to the community.

She contacted state senator Phil Williams and asked if he knew of any projects in the pipeline for which he could use the students' help.

It turns out there was an idea right down the street.{} One of the roads to Westbrook Christian School is dedicated in honor of Ola Lee Mize, a Korean War veteran from Marshall County who received the Medal of Honor.

However, Bean said she learned there were no roads in Alabama named in honor of the Iraq-Afghanistan war veterans.

"We had several options to pick from, but the class voted that that is the project that they felt like would be the most rewarding," she said.

The students hope the state legislature will approve the project as a permanent tribute.

"If you really think about it, we're making a lasting impact in this county," senior Colin Edwards said.

"For one class to be able to come together for five, six months, and to make such a lasting impact, that's just been awesome to me.{} It's really encouraging," he said.

Edwards is working with Charlie Rowe and Cody Burgess as part of a media team to produce a documentary of the project.{} They are recording meetings and taking pictures and videos of other facets of their classmates' work.

There is also a fundraising team and a public relations team, to give students experience in{}different areas{}of public service.{} The class selected Hayden Clay, Olivia Ford, and Hannah Thomas, to be the project managers and oversee the various teams.

Clay said the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are his generation's war, and the soldiers who served need to receive recognition similar to the veterans of World War II, Vietnam, and Korea.

"When someone does a good deed, they deserve to be thanked.{} I feel like veterans are even above that," he said.

"They've served our country and put their lives on the line, and it's really important that we thank them, and they see that we're grateful for them."

The students had to take their proposal to both the Gadsden and rainbow city councils to receive a resolution in their favor.

"I knew a little about how the national government worked, but I didn't know a lot about city governments," Clay said.

"We learned how the councils work and how they vote on things and we were able to see even how people disagreed with certain things and worked it out."

With the support of the cities, the idea must receive approval from the state legislature.{} Senator Williams, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said he will sponsor the bill in the state legislature next month.