Teachers form drumline, majorette, flag squad

Published 6:14 am Thursday, December 23, 2010

When students at John Essex High School march back to class in 2011, they do so to the beat of a new drummer; their own.

Ashley Buckelew, a second grade teacher at John Essex, worked with teachers and a local donor to establish a majorette and flag team and drum corps.

Nearly 25 students will report for their first practice in January.

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“The students are ecstatic,” Buckelew said. “They were in my room (Tuesday) asking me if we could practice during Christmas break.”

Buckelew, a native of Arab and an Auburn University graduate, found Demopolis by way of the Teach For America Program. Upon arriving at the school, she found a lack of extracurricular activities available for the students, but first-year principal Luke Taylor expressed interest in having a dance team.

As a result, Ashley decided to form a majorette team at the school — but to do that she needed a drum corps, which the school also did not have.

“I just know the many opportunities that I had in high school,” she said, “and I wanted these students to have some of those same opportunities.”

One day at school, Buckelew overhead fellow teacher Harold Finch saying that he loves to play the drums and wishes the school had a drum corps. It was at that moment she knew she’d found a partner.

Ashley and Finch teamed up and enlisted the help of Dr. Bill Whitley, a Birmingham doctor who took an interest in the school and Buckelew and Finch’s efforts.

Whitley financially supported all three programs and Buckelew was on her way.

“I just want to get the students involved in the community and involved in John Essex,” she said. “Having students that are motivated and involved in their community helps them reach academic goals.”

About 25 students will begin practice for the drum corps and majorette and flag teams in January, and Buckelew is planning to hold a summer camp as well.

Not bad for one semester’s worth of work.

Teach For America (TFA) is an American non-profit organization whose mission is to build a movement “to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders in the effort.”

A summer camp for the majorettes and drump corps is planned for the summer.

Buckelew said she intended to stay on at John Essex after her two-year term with Teach For America ends after the 2012 year.