Madison Story exudes an energy that is difficult to describe and that is somewhat unsettling. That energy isn’t intimidating in the usual sense of the word. Her easy smile sets one at ease. And then she once again utters a phrase that weaves the threads of a conversation together and offers a glimpse at the source of that energy:
“We have to set the bar high.”
That philosophy of high expectations is central to Madison’s approach to life. It’s an approach she takes in her role as a middle school teacher and as an active member of our community.
Madison is a native of Alleghany County. She grew up in Sparta, graduating from Alleghany High School in 2010 and later from Appalachian State University. Her husband, Josh, is also an Alleghany High (2008) and ASU graduate. They were high school sweethearts.
After beginning her teaching career at Sparta Elementary, Madison took a middle school position at Piney Creek School. Because of the intimate size of the student population, Madison gets to know every student at the school as they progress from kindergarten to 8th grade. She learns their names and about their families, and their needs as students. By the time they reach her middle school classroom, the students know she values and cares about all aspects of their lives. Madison speaks in glowing terms of the support the Piney Creek community gives the students, staff and school. “It’s not unusual,” she said recently, “for a someone in the community to call me and mention they are heading to Winston Salem.” They ask, “Is there anything you need for your classroom?” She points out that often as not, this is someone who doesn’t have a student in school but views it a community responsibility to support local students. “Our community sets the bar high,” she adds.
Sometime back, the Storys enjoyed a family vacation in Morehead City. As the parents of toddlers, they were keen on finding activities that were child appropriate. In a city park they came across a splash pad. In addition to the obvious enjoyment for her children, Madison recognized the value in having a safe space where young families can interact and develop relationships.
After returning home, Madison contacted the recreation director for Morehead City for details about their splash pad. She then contacted Sparta Town manager Ryan Wilmoth to pitch the idea to him. Madison was surprised to learn that Wilmoth had similar thoughts and had received a private donation of $50,000 to be used toward a splash pad project in Sparta. Wilmoth explained that they needed an additional $40,000 to build a basic, bare bones pad.
Madison and a group of concerned community members formed the Alleghany Youth Activities Committee and took to social media to raise the needed $40,000. Madison emphasizes this was a group effort and they were surprised by how quickly they raised those funds. She went back to Wilmoth and asked for a quote for a “shoot for the stars” facility. Wilmoth brought back a quote of $235,000 for a dream pad. Madison’s response was, “There is no need to aim low. Let’s set the bar high.”
Wilmoth took the project to the Sparta Town council and they supported the project with both funding and advocacy. Another individual stepped forward with a substantial donation. This has led to a current balance of $210,000 toward the project. The committee is gearing up for one last fundraising push in April with the Splash Pad Lottery. The goal is to have the facility operational by Memorial Day.
As Madison describes the group’s vision for the pad, it is anchored in community. “We [the community] say we want our young families to stay here in Alleghany County. That requires activities for children and places where parents can get to know each other. I hear some of the objections around town to this project and questions about how much this will cost to operate and maintain. I tend to focus on what it costs us when young families move away.”
There’s that energy again – the challenge to set the bar set high.
If you would like to contribute to this project, donations are being accepted at the Sparta town office. More information can be found on the Alleghany Youth Activities Committee’s Facebook page.