5 Star Story: Wynne rising

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 10:30 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After holding various fundraisers throughout the years, one thing is abundantly clear to all of us here at Action News 5: Mid-Southerners rally when things get tough.

And few things are tougher than rebuilding after a natural disaster; just ask the folks in Wynne, Arkansas, whose town was hit by a tornado last spring.

In this week’s 5 Star Story, featuring the things that make us proud to call the Mid-South home, our Kym Clark took a trip to Wynne and found they not only survived the storm, they’re thriving.

A pep rally inside Wynne High School’s temporary gym quickly turned into a celebration of spirit during a visit from The Today Show’s Al Roker, who brought gifts and encouragement.

The temporary Wynne High School
The temporary Wynne High School(Action News 5)

“To get that call and for him to come down from New York, it’s just... I can’t say in words what it means to us,” expressed Wynne Public Schools Superintendent Kenneth Moore.

The Wynne High School graduate also told us that there’s plenty of reason to celebrate. Within just 5 months time, a new temporary high school has risen from the rubble, just in time for the start of school.

“We wanted to make sure they have everything; they aren’t gonna miss one thing,” Moore explained about all the courses and extra-curricular activities in which the students will still be able to participate.

That’s amazing news since several businesses, homes and the high school were reduced to a pile of rubble following a devastating tornado on March 31, which forced students at the high school to be split into different locations in order to complete the school year.

The Wynne School District is cleaning up and making plans. 
On Saturday, the school announced...
The Wynne School District is cleaning up and making plans. On Saturday, the school announced it school would be out for the week of April 3 to April 7. Lunch and dinner will be served to students during the week at the junior high school cafeteria during the week. The district has not announced long term plans yet.(KAIT)

But Moore said the students and staff were never daunted.

“The way they have been able to handle this, go through this, has been great. But they want to be together and they want all back in one location and they wanna be where, you know, it’s theirs. It’s their school, so.”

That’s exactly what is expected to happen within the next week when students begin attending classes in the temporary structures. But it’s not just the students who are excited. It’s the community as a whole.

“In a small town, the high school is kind of a sense of unity. (It) brings everybody together, doesn’t matter where you’re from, doesn’t matter your background. It’s everybody in one location. It’s a home, you know,” Moore said.

And it’s something that Al Roker said he’s seen happen again and again:

“I’ve covered these for over 40 years and every story is unique but yet the same. And the common thread is that community doesn’t realize how much community means until something like this happens. And time and time and time again that’s what really matters.”

It’s also why district leaders revived a motto that saw them through the end of COVID, wearing t-shirts with “Jackets don’t just survive, we thrive” written across the chest. (The school mascot is the yellow jacket--a type of wasp.)

“And I think it’s really for me and I think our staff and even our kids, it’s something they’ve latched onto. We’re not determined by our circumstances, and although some of them we can’t control, and they’re not really necessarily the most fun, we’re gonna thrive regardless of what happens,” explained Moore about Wynne High School students and staff and the town as a whole.

During Al Roker’s visit, the teachers were given classroom supplies and cash for their classroom needs. Superintendent Moore also told Kym that he expected the district will use the temporary school for 36-to-48 months or until the new permanent high school will likely be completed.

If you’d like to help the Wynne school district with its recovery efforts, click here.

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