East Side Elementary comes out to serve former principal

students working in garden

Star Photo/Amber Wadovick
East Side teacher April Pearson shows her students the ‘correct’ way to sweep excess mulch from the sidewalk as their gardening came to a close.

BY AMBER WADOVICK, Elizabethton Star

As spring/summer is in full force in Carter County, many residents are prepping to renovate their flower and/or vegetable gardens for the season. For many, however, the amount of physical exertion necessary prevents them from getting as much done as they would like. Members of the community, however, have got them covered.

Students from East Side Elementary came to former principal Josh Wandell’s home Wednesday morning to work on flower beds around his property as a service project.

Teachers April Richmond and April Pearson said they do service projects throughout the year as part of their K Kids program, and this time, they wanted to give back to the former principal.

“A lot of these kids had Wandell as a principal,” Richmond said. “We wanted to do something for him in return.”

The fourth and fifth-grade students arrived at the neighborhood in a city school bus and immediately went to work, bringing with them dozens of bags of mulch.

They said the students loved Wandell, and they wanted to help him with his gardens since he cannot go out to tend them himself.

Wandell received an ALS diagnosis around 2013, and he has used his condition to spread his “faith over fear” message in many areas of the community.

Wandell has said in the past he uses ALS as a platform for God’s message to other people, and Pearson said this mentality has shaped the students he has interacted with over the years.

“He is a mindset-changer,” Pearson said.

The K Kids program is affiliated with the Kiwanis Club, which is involved in schools through various organizations such as Key Clubs in high schools. They said Wandell was instrumental in bringing K Kids, the elementary school version, to East Side.

“There would not be K Kids without Wandell,” Pearson said.

The teachers said they also used the service project as an opportunity to learn about teamwork and how to not give up on a goal because of its difficulty.

“He has given so much to this community,” Richmond said. “We appreciate all he has done.”

They said students Wednesday learned the value of hard work, as well as learning they can do anything if they put their mind to it, no matter how tough the task may seem.

Kids Like Us triples in size

Lisa Lyons

Lisa Lyons

Since opening just over a year ago, Kids Like Us Community Center has tripled in size. It moved to a new location at the former Range Elementary School, where children have access to six classrooms. These include spaces to learn independent living skills like cooking and doing laundry. Not only do students improve social-emotional skills at the center, but they get academic support, art and music therapy, and physical and occupational therapy.

Founder Lisa Lyons said the center is now exploring the roles virtual reality can play in deescalating children in crisis and broadening academic and social opportunities. The center has partnered with LiiNA to develop programs most appropriate for their students, and ETSU and Microsoft have taken interest in the pilot program.

The 501c3  center is completely run by volunteers and funded through community support. Recently, the club received its first two grants – one from Autism Speaks, and another from Tiger Woods.

We look forward to seeing this center grow and continue providing essential resources to local families.

Learn more at kidslikeuscommunity.org.

UHS & EHS Key Clubs receive several awards at K-T District Convention

This weekend, our Unaka High School and Elizabethton High School Key Clubs traveled to Franklin, Tenn. to participate in Key Club’s K-T District Convention. They brought home several prestigious awards as individuals and as clubs. We’re proud of their activity, involvement, and dedication.

Individual Awards

  • Kaylee Bowers (EHS): Most Outstanding Lt. Governor in the District; Best All-Around Key Clubber in the District; and First Place, Individual Service to Ronald McDonald House
  • Britney Hodge (UHS): Outstanding Key Club President
  • Axi Erickson (UHS): Second Place, Impromptu Essay
  • Morgan Mann (UHS): Third Place, Individual Service to Ronald McDonald                                                                           House

Club Awards

Elizabethton High School

  • First Place, Non-digital Poster
  • Silver Award, Ronald McDonald House Fundraising
  • Trick or Treat for UNICEF Award

Unaka High School

  • First Place, Achievement Report, Bronze Category (35 members or less)
  • First Place, Single Service, Bronze Category
  • First Place, Traditional Scrapbook
  • Third Place, Club Video
  • Distinguished Club, K-T District
  • Most Outstanding Club in Division 7 (Northeast Tennessee)
  • Dues on Time Award
  • Ronald McDonald House Awards
        • First Place, Club Service to House
        • Second Place, Pop Tab Collection
        • Third Place, Monetary Donation
        • Gold Contribution to House
  • UNICEF Recognition, Contribution over $250


Recovery Soldiers Ministries: hope for addiction

Ben Cole, Recovery Soldiers Ministries Founder

After struggling with addiction himself for more than a decade, experiencing a car wreck and subsequently a year at a rehabilitation center, Ben Cole founded Recovery Soldiers Ministries in Elizabethton. Recovery Soldiers is an addiction ministry that provides residents a 12-month program to help them beat addiction, strengthen their faith, and reintegrate into a stable life and job. The ministry opened in February 2017 and can serve 25 men at a time. Since its inception, 12 men have graduated the program. The program is supported by area churches, individual contributions, and its thrift store. We’re glad to have such a strong leader managing this ministry and sharing the message that freedom from addiction is possible.