(Rutherford County, TN) The halls of McFadden School of Excellence are swimming with bright students, creative educators and dedicated parents – all willing to go the extra mile. McFadden was originally built in 1927 in honor of Elvie McFadden, a social worker who ministered to the children of Westvue, one of the poorest areas of Murfreesboro. Elvie taught children, fed them, and gave them hope for a brighter future.
Although Elvie would never see the school open, the achievement and a reputation of excellence within the community reflects the qualities Elvie McFadden displayed in her social work.
Many of those qualities are reflected in McFadden’s Beta club’s four pillars. “Beta club is a national club for grades four through twelve, and it focuses on the four pillars of beta: character, achievement, service, and leadership,” said Theresa Jones, Beta club sponsor 30-year McFadden veteran.
Jones currently teaches fifth grade math. She also was involved in the county’s implementation and planning of Rutherford’s magnet program. “Our students and students throughout the nation are chosen based on those four pillars. A lot of people think it’s all about grades and high achievement. Which, those are important, but we also focus on the other three pillars; character, service and leadership,” said Andy Roach, assistant principal at McFadden.
Roach has been at McFadden for nine years, but Beta is not new to him. He started as a fourth-grade math teacher at McFadden and has served as the assistant principal for the last four years.
“National Honor Society, which we had, was great,” Jones said, “but Beta gave us opportunities for competitions with conventions and gave students opportunities to get out into the world and compete some for the leadership aspect. But it also opens the doors for us to really give them a reason to serve.”
McFadden aims to prepare its students for leadership opportunities wherever they may go, and Beta club has become a big part of that. Students throughout the school know what the club is and look forward to joining in fifth grade.
Most recently, fifth grade beta club students competed in the beta national convention with almost 1,500 other fourth and fifth grade students representing 46 beta clubs across the US.
The convention featured multiple categories, including musicology, quiz bowl, fiber arts, poetry and more. Aush Kafle was a first-place winner in the drawing contest, and also the onsite drawing contest.
"The most challenging part of preparing for one of my competitions was finding a way to express the intended message of my art through paper and pencil, and to come up with an idea for that reason,” said Kafle.
Quinn Shelton is a fifth-grade student who joined Beta club at McFadden. She also was the 1st place winner in the handmade jewelry category of the elementary Beta convention. "I joined Beta because I thought it would be a fun challenge and I wanted to compete in different activities. I also joined because I knew it would be hard, but I wanted to have fun and perform on stage,” said Shelton. “One more reason I joined Beta was to help and connect with my community."
Students at McFadden can join the Beta club once they become fifth graders. At the head of the school, they are looked up to as role models and exemplars by other students, but they also do a lot of service work.
“Our fifth graders lead the school, but they also serve because they’ve done food drives, work in the garden and buy into making the school community go out into the local community,” said Jones. “The service is really where we try to get them. The competition and leadership is great, but that service and having the heart to take care of others makes a difference in the world.”
Currently to become a member of the club students need maintain a B average, though students have been admitted under probation. The most important thing is that students are getting involved in the leadership role and learning early about community and how to serve.
“The parents want them to make those grades, but we want them to also have this opportunity,” said Jones. “Beta club puts in place at this young age something they can carry all the way through their senior year. These competitions can grow and develop skills. This year they might do drawing, but next year it might be painting, or they might be in a quiz bowl.”
Students at McFadden leave and go to a variety of middle schools. Some may go to Central Magnet, but many others go to their zoned middle school – often schools that are a multitude size larger than McFadden. A much bigger pond.
“Knowing wherever they go in middle school, they also have a beta club – they can already feel a part of something when they go to their new school,” said Roach.
Dr. Clark Blair, principal of McFadden, knows that McFadden has a reputation of excellence in the community. Despite that, the goal, according to Blair, is not just high grades – but to prepare students for their middle school career by providing a solid foundation for their education.
“Every opportunity we have for them to shine, to get out of their shell, is important,” said Dr. Blair. “They're in our little bitty pond, but if they go out to central or other schools it’s a big, gigantic pond. But if they apply what we taught them, they’re gonna do great. That’s all our kids. When they get to that big pond they can go, ‘wow, I can put myself out there. I can play sports, I can be in Beta, I can be a leader, and I’ve got everything I need.’”