Cabot superintendent takes 501 LIFE along on special mission trip

Cabot School District Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman recently packed a copy of 501 LIFE to take along on a mission that led him 1,700 miles away from Arkansas.

Thurman participated in January in a Lifetouch Memory Mission to build a school in a small, mountainous farming community called Constanza in the Dominican Republic.

Lifetouch Photography, the leading national provider of school and family photography, organized the trip and invited school administrators, school board members, principals and other educators and PTA members to work alongside Lifetouch volunteers and Dominican nationals to build the school.

Thurman, the only school administrator from Arkansas selected to attend this year, traveled with 51 other volunteers to begin construction on the new elementary school.

During the trip, volunteers worked on a number of projects and had an opportunity to visit with community members and interact with teachers and students. They even got to participate in a day of photography for the students and families in the village, many of whom had never seen a photo of themselves.

“The area in which we worked was absolutely breathtaking,” Thurman said. “With all of the scenic beauty around me, it was overwhelming to also observe many of the conditions in which most people lived. The economic conditions and shortage of well-paying jobs in the area are a major problem. Education is not a priority. Teen pregnancy and malnutrition are predominate.

“The people welcome mission trips because they know that we are offering hope. Specifically, our group offered a chance to build a school in a community that really needed a rainbow to appear. The trip offered the opportunity to not only build a school, but to build powerful relationships.  

“I’ve never cut so much rebar, carried so many concrete blocks, sifted so much sand, hauled so many buckets of mortar, or used a pickaxe to chip away at so many rocks! It was all worth it. We never referred to the fact that we were building a school. We were building hope.”  

Back in the 501, Thurman has shared with students and others what he brought back from the experience.

“Love and compassion is powerful and can be felt regardless of the language that is spoken.

“Kids are awesome, want attention and love, and deserve every opportunity they can be given in the Dominican Republic.  

“Kids are awesome, want attention and love, and deserve every opportunity they can be given in Cabot, Ark.  

“It was an awesome experience to travel 1,700 miles to make a difference.  

“I don’t have to travel 1,700 miles from home to make a difference.  

“Finally. ‘We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.’ Winston Churchill.”