TALLULAH, La.—The Madison High School Jaguars brought a ringer onto the basketball court with them Thursday evening: a Cabinet secretary.
After a day of events in Arkansas and Louisiana, Secretary Duncan changed out of his suit and tie for a 30-minute scrimmage with the team. More than 300 students, parents, teachers and members of this 9,200-person community turned out to watch and cheer.
The well-coached Jaguars evidently have developed a system that works for them, running plays smoothly and connecting on their passes. It took Arne’s young teammates awhile to adjust to a new player—his no-look passes seemed to throw them off their game—but they soon found a rhythm. At halftime, Arne’s team trailed 38-42.
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One of the teachers watching from the bleachers was Hazel S. Suluki. Forty-three years ago, as a senior in college, she was thrust into leading her first classroom when her student-teaching mentor left mid-year. She has been in education ever since—as an elementary school teacher, a principal and director of school-based health. For the last two years she’s been at Madison. Ask her which of the students on the court tonight were hers and she’ll say “all of them.”
Ms. Suluki teaches “life skills” at Madison. She helps high schoolers create résumés and prep for job interviews. She teaches them how to take the knowledge they’ve gained in their academic classes and apply it to their lives beyond the classroom.
“Not all of our children are going to go to college,” she believes, “but they are going to have some type of job.”
As for her own job, this grandmother of eight has no plans to retire.
“I just want to keep giving something back. I want to be a school marm forever,” she said. “I want to wear out, not rust out.”
When the basketball players come to class on Friday, Ms. Suluki plans to discuss what they learned from their pick-up game with the visiting Secretary of Education. She noticed the boys seemed comfortable enough with their temporary teammate to shove him on the court like any other opponent. “It’s like he’s just a big friend out there to them,” she said.
The final score of Thursday evening’s game: 58-56. Arne and his half of the Mighty Jaguars squad pulled out a victory.
“I love the school spirit here,” he told the crowd after the game. “I love the camaraderie. Hope you guys have a great, great school year.”
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