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Celebrating unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic

Retired U.S. Marshall, grandfather helps grandson with schoolwork, teaches life skills during pandemic
Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 7:17 PM CDT
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KOLIN, La. (KALB) - When schools shut down last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents were left to figure out how to keep their kids on track academically.

“That’s one thing we feared for both of our kids but especially for Jackson - that they would just be a step behind where they needed to be,” said Cole Churchman, father of seventh-grade student Jackson Churchman.

The unsung heroes of the last year are grandparents like Gregory “P-Paw” Ray who have stepped up to make sure their kids don’t fall behind as they transitioned to distance and virtual learning. Ray has spent the last year helping his grandson Jackson Churchman stay on track with his studies.

“It was really hard,” said Jackson when talking about virtual learning.

In addition to helping Jackson with his schoolwork two to three days a week while his parents are working, Ray - a retired U.S. Marshal - used the time away from the classroom to teach Jackson life skills.

“We would ride the four-wheeler, till the garden, tend to the dogs, watch the news, talk about current events, balance a checkbook, talk about money, talk about a job, talk about retirement. Just life skills that probably you don’t learn in seventh grade,” Ray said.

Jackson and the family presented P-Paw with a special award for all his efforts.

“It says the Greater Kolin Independent School District recognizes Gregory P-Paw Ray. 2020-2021 Junior High School Teacher of the Year. So that’s from my kids. That’s special,” Ray said.

As of the week of March 15, students in Rapides Parish are finally scheduled for a full school week in the classroom.

“I’m very excited because I’ll get to see my friends every day,” Jackson said.

Ray says one of the biggest lessons they’ve learned in all this is that learning outside the classroom is harder than it seems.

“I think the biggest thing is that people have to socialize. People have to have people to get better. You can’t just learn everything off of a computer or a book. You can’t read it and get it. You have a lot of advantages when you have someone there who spends quality time with you to show you what needs to be done,” Ray said.

That’s especially true for parents who are doing it all on their own.

“I feel very blessed to have Greg who’s been at home this entire time to take up the reigns on that. I really don’t know how parents who don’t have the grandparent or the relative who’s either staying at home or who’s retired that’s been able to help out like that. I’m sure it’s been very difficult for those parents,” Churchman said.

We dedicate an “Honorary Golden Apple” to Gregory “P-Paw” Ray and all the others in Cenla who have stepped up to help during the most difficult year most of us have ever seen.

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