What is a community? Head to Wall, TX and you will find the answer. The people in this area want their neighbors and each other to be safe and well-cared-for. The community works together in times of struggle and to see that the needs of others are taken care of. When someone in the community is hurting, we all hurt. When someone is celebrating a new life, a new being, we are all celebrating. You should come see the camaraderie of the community.
For those reasons and more, Wall is the nicest place in America, even though there is not much here. But what is here is a very successful school in both sports and academics, a restaurant where everyone flocks to, neighborhoods where there is no one that isn’t nice to one another. And little things, from no matter who you wave at while you’re driving they wave back, or everyone you talks to they act like they’ve known you their whole life — and I mean everyone. Everything from Friday night football games that would be a crime to miss to benefits held at our volunteer fire department and the catholic church for people in our community in need.
People genuinely care about people. Students push to excel in academics and sports. Families attend every occasion to show support. And when something tragic happens, we all come together to be sad and be reminded of how blessed we are. Like many people, Wall families have been through a lot of life-changing events.
Hadley Holik, a little girl who was suffering from brain cancer, had a benefit held for her in the Wall Volunteer fire department where there were silent and live auctions, meals, and donations — all which went toward Hadley. Sadly, Hadley had to move onto a better place and everybody was absolutely devastated.
A senior at Wall High School was in an awful car accident and was in ICU for two months. At our local catholic church we held a benefit for the student. We had shirts made, auctions and lots of food and donations. Everything went toward helping him. We also had a prayer circle at school where everyone circled in the gym and we all prayed for him. Luckily, he was out of ICU after all of that and since then he has made a full recovery and is back at school.
Paige and Tate Lombard are two very extraordinary people who have impacted Wall through coaching basketball and cross country and being teachers in the junior high and high school. Tate has led the girls’ basketball team to win the state title while Paige has helped those ladies grow into amazing young women by setting a good example to be sweet and loving. Recently, they got pregnant and it was very exciting news for not only them, but for everyone in Wall. As baby Archer became a part of our family, we were sad to find out that he had been diagnosed with a very serious heart condition. Having to make trips to Houston once a week the Lombards were very stressed and overwhelmed about the what could happen to their baby boy. Prayer began and our community came together to help them in any way possible. Some were making meals for them to take to Houston instead of eating out, some offered to babysit their dog and check on their house, while many bought a bracelet to wear with Archer’s name on it to be reminded to pray for him. Through donations like the go fund me that was set up by a community member, we were able to give the Lombards over $50,000. There were other fundraisers set up by student council and their church to help raise even more money for them. We love them so much and will do anything to support and help people who go through rough patches in life. The people in Wall are so giving and it amazes me at what this small town is capable of.
Pat Gray’s Story, Seeing the Community From the Inside
I work at the high school here in Wall. Many fondly refer to it as Wall America. I, as a teacher, am blessed serving this community in this capacity. The students that are in my classes want to succeed, want to strive to have a good life, and better their community. Yes, at times they are typical teenagers (in their thoughts and actions) but they also have good hearts. Peers care and support each other.
A young man, JT, was in my Lifetime Nutrition & Wellness Class was in a terrible car accident. He was in the hospital for a long time. I was amazed when I would go to see him the numerous peers and Wall community there for the family. There were people who brought in food, had prayer groups, and a constant flow of visitors. He was in ICU for awhile and each time I went there was always an overwhelming number of visitors in the waiting room. They had fundraisers for the hospital bills incurred by the family and support was magnified and magnificent. Eventually he was moved to Houston area for rehab and the support continued. What a day it was when JT came home. The people in the community do have their differences but when one of them needs help they are there to give of their time, skills, abilities, and money to help others rally.
As a teacher, the discipline problems are minute compared to other schools. The students have a strong work ethic and that spills over into the classroom. The majority are very involved in extracurricular activities, community activities, and keep their grades up. They excel academically and in sports and other competitions in FFA, 4-H, Art, and FCCLA organizations. The people want their community and school to be strong, safe, and successful and support us in every way possible. It is the minority who do not come to Open House to meet and greet teachers. Parents offer assistance from least task to a monstrous task.
My FCCLA Group competed and this year two groups made it to advance to national competition. Their project was adopting an efficiency apartment at our shelter for Abused women and children to remodel. The support from businesses, family, and community made all possible. The FCCLA groups supplied the labor, time, and skill to redo this apartment. The other group that advanced to nationals adopted the family that moved into the apartment. The group raised money to supply Christmas, food, and clothing for them. These students spent many hours planning, acting, and evaluating their success and failures on this project. The parents and the extended family help to raise money for our trip this summer. we needed to raise money for hotel, airfare, food, etc and wow, has the community supported us. One of the students grandmothers did a garage sale for us, a parent made breads and sold them (cost out of her own pocket) and donated the money to FCCLA. One parent worked at fundraisers because her daughter could not. Another parent paid for thank you notes with the students picture on them to send out. Everything needed they have assisted us with. Parents are so supportive of our school.
The community as a whole has sent donations, supported our efforts to sell donuts, popsicles, sloppy day at school, plus eating at a local restaurant where we get part of the proceeds. We are going to get to our destination, Nashville, thanks to this wonderful community and the hard work of my students.
All these stories are just a drop in the bucket to how this community reaches out and helps. Come see us, stay awhile, you will see what I am talking about. They rejoice together, they cry together.
Megan’s Story, A Family of Wallites
Most people would probably not consider their high school a “nice” place. That is not the case in Wall, Texas. As a former student and now a teacher, I can assure you this school and this community is the nicest you will find because of our unconditional love and connection. Everyday we put our love into action to show it in every way imaginable.
Growing up, I never realized how special this place was from a student’s perspective. I thought it was normal that every teacher loved me as his or her own. If you lost something, Jesse, our custodian would happily join you on the quest to find your missing jacket, lunchbox, or notebook. He knows every student by name and would do anything for us. As a teacher here now, I still see Jesse putting down his work to help our kids.
Many of the teachers I had in high school are now not only my colleagues, but so much more — they’re my second family. When I got married a few years ago, we didn’t have a reception because we were renovating our new home. My friends and some of the teachers offered to plan a reception for me. “It will be just be a little something,” they said. One teacher opened her barn for the venue while everyone brought food and decorated. It was the most beautiful reception I’ve ever been to — there was a live band, delicious food, and most importantly, love and laughter.
But the kindness doesn’t stop with the teachers. If you walk down our school hallways, it doesn’t look or sound like a normal high school. If there is shoving, it’s playful. If you see books on the ground, it’s because someone tripped and other students are gathered around to help the person pick up their belongings. Students are smiling and greeting one another. Most go out of their way to be kind to the ones who are different and need it the most. If I am carrying more than my purse, multiple students, some of whom I don’t have in class or know well, stop to ask if I need help carrying anything. Sometimes they don’t even ask. They just take it out of my hands and head towards my room with me.
Texas football reigns in most small towns. Our school’s sea of green (no other color will do on a game day) makes my heart swell a little. It doesn’t matter how long the game takes, that sea of green will remain in those stands until the very end. We always have the biggest fan base. During a home game, we played against a school from a low-income town many hours away. Some of the mothers from our school heard that most of the students couldn’t afford dinner on the trip over to the game so they made sure a hearty meal awaited them when they arrived. Once the game began, the visitor’s side bleachers remained empty because most of the parents couldn’t afford to travel the long distance. In an effort to show the opposing team support, half the students left our stands to fill up the other side so both teams could reap the benefits of their own cheer squad.
Kids will be kids though, and we still have shenanigans. The senior class still plots their annual heist. Tractor Day, a 20-year-old tradition, started when a group of seniors drove their tractors to school one day as part of their senior prank. But one student from five years ago didn’t like how the tradition excluded students who didn’t come from farming families. To be more inclusive, he hooked a trailer onto his tractor so every student could participate in the parade no matter what. Most students attach trailers to their tractors now for that very purpose.
Recently, I had a student apologize for being late to homeroom because he helped one of his cows give birth. Last year, I had a student who was late to class everyday because he took care of his mother who was recovering from cancer. He made her lunch, gave her medicine, and dressed her surgical incisions. The secretary and attendance clerk started bringing extra food to school when they heard he was skipping lunch to go home and mend his bedridden mother.
The students gathered in the gymnasium during lunch time to pray for a student who suffered injuries from a serious car accident. Not one student was left behind in the cafeteria. It looked so eerie to see trays of half-eaten lunches left on the tables. Seeing those kids in the gym holding hands brought tears to my eyes. They did everything like sell t-shirts, host fundraisers, and make countless hospital visits to show their unwavering support.
Here we are family, but Wallites don’t stop with their community, they help others too. When another school in our district lost their cheer sponsor in an accident, the entire student body wore red and black (the colors of our rivals). A picture was taken and sent to the school with a heartfelt poem stating that they were in our thoughts and prayers. The students collect socks for the homeless, money for Meals on Wheels, and cans of food for the food bank, along with donating donate to numerous fundraisers. We hosted a drive for supplies to help a flooded town nearby. Our own halls were flooded with shovels, food, paper goods, and blankets for the families who were suffered great loss.
Like any family, we have our squabbles. This is by no means a utopian society where everyone gets along all the time. You will hear the stereotypical small-town gossip, and Wall isn’t free of rivalry or arguments. However, at the end of the day there is always more love than anything else. Wallites stick up for each other. And like true families, we love each other even when we don’t like each other.
My two students submitted entries about Hadlee Holik and the Lombards. Neither of these stories ended happily by the world’s standards, but the Wall family continues to support these families. They’re going through the most difficult things any of us can imagine, but I hope they know they are not alone. We are all sharing their grief. You can’t hurt one member of our family without the rest of us sharing the pain.