SVHEC's Coordinator of Learner Success & Engagement, Meagan Owen, sees modern schools and the local sales tax option as the key to training Halifax County's future workforce.
Having matriculated through the Halifax County Public School system, and being the mother of two young children who will eventually do the same, Meagan Owen has a vested interest in up-to-date and state-of-the-art school facilities. But it’s not just about what she wants for her own family, it’s about what she wants for everyone county-wide.
“I would like to see the county have a high school that students are proud and excited to go to. I want to see a high school that can raise the bar with updated technology, one that can send better-prepared kids out into the workforce … not just for my kids but for my community as well.”
Owen, Coordinator of Learner Success and Engagement for Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), has seen major changes in the economy and in the workforce in general over the past several years. With these changes, she sees an opportunity to prepare students for jobs and to develop a future workforce.
“When I was in high school, the choices locally were college, armed forces and manufacturing,” she said. “Now there is so much to be offered - careers in high tech and IT, graphic design, welding and HVAC – and students can begin the training while still in high school. And having a high school that can better prepare our workforce makes us more attractive to economic development prospects.”
Owen is a proponent of the local option sales tax referendum, which will be voted on in the November elections. If passed, the sales tax will help provide revenue to be used solely for construction or renovation of schools in Halifax County, most notably the high school.
She sees passage of the tax increase as a crucial step for future generations. “Not only do I think it's a crucial step but I feel it's the responsibility of every citizen,” she said. “Even those who don't have a child in the school system can benefit.”
Owen graduated Halifax County High School in 2000, 20 years after its first graduating class passed through its doors. The structure had already begun aging at that point, and here we are two decades later with a facility that has pretty much reached its expiration date.
“Something has to be done about the high school, and the burden to pay for improvements should not solely fall on property owners since property owners are not the only ones who would benefit,” she said. “Our whole community would benefit, and with the sales tax we have the opportunity for county visitors to contribute as well. This referendum is a one-time opportunity for our citizens that will not come again.”
Another consideration for modernizing school facilities is security and the safety of students.
“Security is definitely a top priority for me,” said the young mother. “We live in a different time than we did when I graduated, or when HCHS was built. Again SOMETHING has to be done, and the sales tax is a fair and equal way for all citizens to keep our children in a safe learning environment. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ What kind of soul do we want our community to have?” she asked.
For more information about the local option sales tax referendum, visit yesforhalifaxschools.com.