Budget defeat would devastate me and the other students

To the Editor:
My name is Henry Gumpper. I am in eighth grade at Berne-Knox-Westerlo and I am very concerned about what will happen if the BKW school budget doesn’t pass. The budget is essential to supporting vital programs that have made a huge difference in my academic performance and my engagement at the school.

BKW’s strength lies in the small class sizes and the ability for our students to participate in all the available extra-curricular activities. There’s something for everyone and the students take full advantage. Many students participate in athletics and arts and other clubs. You don’t have that at other schools. 

As an eighth-grader, I participate in cross country, track and field, theater, band, Future Farmers of America, E-sports, and ski club. I’m also an honors student taking Regents-level algebra and earth science and I can honestly say that without the extra-curricular activities that I participate in, I would be much less motivated.

For me, school isn’t just about grades, it’s where I connect with other students, which isn’t easy in such a rural area.

One of my favorite activities has been the annual BKW musical production. Last year, we did a production of “Once Upon a Mattress” and this year we performed “The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree.” We met every day after school from December to March to rehearse.

Over the course of the production, not only did we create an amazing show, we also formed connections with other members of the cast, in grades 6 to 12. More than anything, the BKW Theater Troupe is a family. It is a place where everyone can feel accepted and safe.

It’s also worth noting that last year was the first production since COVID and we had 15 kids on the cast and crew. This year, we had 45! It is clear that interest in theater and music at Berne-Knox-Westerlo is increasing and that students find this program valuable.

Another program that I’ve had the opportunity to participate in is Future Farmers of America. I got involved in the National FFA Organization in sixth grade and since then I have traveled all over the state, competed in a variety of events, and grown as a leader.

This year, I am the president of our junior chapter. I also served as the president on our Conduct of Chapter Meetings team, which won first place in district competitions, second place in Sub-states, and took fourth place at the state competition in Buffalo.

Our chapter was also honored at the state convention for being one of the top 10 fastest growing chapters in New York. I have learned many new things about the agricultural field, improved my public speaking skills, and become a stronger leader as a result of BKW’s FFA program.

Track and field has quickly become something I look forward to each year. I joined BKW’s track and field team in seventh grade and competed in long jump, the 400 meter race, and shot put.

One of the things I like about track is that it is as much about beating your personal best as it is about beating the other team. You are always working to improve on your previous performance.

There is also an important team aspect to the sport: I support my fellow teammates and they support me. We give each other advice on improving our performance and work to help one another be the best that we can be.

I have made many new friends through track and field, both at BKW and at other schools. It’s nice to arrive at a meet and see familiar faces.

If the Berne-Knox-Westerlo budget is defeated on June 18, all of these programs go away —  athletics, arts, and all after school clubs. Gone. 

This would devastate me and the other students. 

I ask you to please vote in support of the budget. The vote will be held on Tuesday, June 18, at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School auditorium, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

What we have is too important to lose. 

Henry Gumpper

BKW eighth-grader

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