Clay County’s Mike Mullins was awarded First Lady Cathy Justice’s Rhododendron Award in a virtual ceremony held on Sept. 10, 2020. Mullins a lifelong resident of Clay County and a retired Clay County teacher, and was one of three West Virginians honored.
The award recognizes individuals in West Virginia who exemplify goodness and work for the betterment of their communities. In particular, the Rhododendron Award recognizes the “unsung heroes” throughout West Virginia, whose work has made a significant difference in the lives of others.
A trio of site coordinators from the Communities in Schools program were selected for this year’s honor: Kathy Brunty of Westside High School in Wyoming County, Mike Mullins of Clay County High School, and Carla Snell of Huntington High School in Cabell County. Deputy State Superintendent of Schools Michelle Blatt moderated the ceremony and the First Lady presented the awards.
The first Lady stated that, “We have three exceptional people that we get to give our Rhododendron Award to today. We’re so proud of all of our recipients for their work with Communities in Schools and we encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing.”
Communities In Schools aims to forge community partnerships and bring resources into schools to help remove barriers to student learning with a goal of keeping all students in school and ultimately graduating.
CIS site coordinators work inside schools as the point of contact for students, connecting them with resources to ensure their academic and nonacademic needs are met; allowing them to be in the classroom, fully engaged, and ready to learn. They also work alongside community partners and school leadership to implement programs and bring additional supports into their facilities to help students succeed.
The First Lady and Gov. Jim Justice started CIS in three counties in 2018. Since then, the program has expanded to 23 counties, serving more than 30,000 students in 109 schools across the state. In August, First Lady Justice announced the latest expansion of the CIS program included schools in Brooke, Kanawha, Jackson, Mingo, Mercer, Wayne, Pocahontas, and Upshur counties.
In his acceptance speech, Mullins thanked the First Lady and Governor Justice for their support of the Communities in Schools program throughout the state. Mullins stated, “One of the goals of the Communities in Schools program is to meet the physical, social, and emotional needs of all West Virginia students. I believe that the best way to do this is to match students with a caring adult.”
“The old adage that ‘They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ is very true, especially in this time of COVID,” Mullins continued. “I think students need to have a caring adult to talk with and meet.”
Mullins took a moment to recognize the four men who helped to mold his life. The first was former Clay County Schools Superintendent, Jerry Linkinoggor who was Mullin’s high school principal and later his boss. Mullins credited Linkinoggor’s leadership skills and life’s work in making Clay County a better place for all of us. The next man was Lewis McLaughlin who served as a teacher and administrator for Clay County Schools. Mullin’s shared some of the many ways McLaughlin ‘paid it forward’ to help students in school and in life. The third man Mullins acknowledged was Dale ‘Buck’ Davis who proved to be a great role model for Mullins and the other students he taught. Mullins described Coach Davis as the epitome of a gentleman. The fourth man Mullins spoke of was his father, Junior Mullins. Mullins praised his wisdom, work ethic, patriotism, and love of history. He also mentioned how his father made sure all five of his children earned college degrees and became teachers.
In closing, Mullins reminded listeners to remember 9/11 and all the heroes who risked their lives so others could live.
Mullins’ career in education has spanned 40 years working for the Clay County Board of Education as a teacher, coach, school administrator, Assistant Superintendent and a Community in Schools Site Coordinator. His comments and the Rhododendron Award Ceremony can be watched in their entirety at the following link: https://governor.wv.gov/News/press-releases/2020/Pages/First-Lady-Cathy-Justice-presents-Rhododendron-Awards-to-three-Communities-In-Schools-site-coordinators.aspx.