Fifty miles northwest of Atlanta lies Ball Ground, Georgia, a community of 2,000 residents whose name derives from its history as a place for sports. The small city is located near fields where Cherokee people played stick ball, a rough game similar to lacrosse. Large, flat fields and the presence of freshwater streams made the area appealing to the native Americans.
Later, when others began to settle there, those same streams and fields attracted farmers, who dammed the streams to create ponds and lakes. Most of those remain today, and Ball Ground’s economy today is a mix of agriculture and residential developments. Appropriately enough, Ball Ground is located in Cherokee County, one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, and it lies next to Forsyth County and its superior schools.
Contributing to Ball Ground’s growth is the family of our youngest daughter, Evelyn Cummo, who moved there several years ago from Greensboro, N.C., with her husband Chris and their daughters Maria and Michelle, now 15 and 12 years old. Evelyn and Chris, middle school teachers, moved to Georgia, where school teachers are valued and appropriately compensated. Their salaries doubled with the move, and Maria and Michelle will have free tuition if they choose to attend a state university. Michelle, who is an excellent diver, is thinking about UGa, which has one of the nation’s strongest swimming and diving programs. Maria, who excels in musical theater, hasn’t yet chosen her university. The girls’ calendars are jammed with practice, rehearsals and other activities, but they are serious about school and earn straight A’s.
Shortly after Evelyn and Chris joined the faculty of Liberty Middle School, Chris won honors as one of the state’s best teachers, and Evelyn, although a biology teacher, was invited to create and lead a drama program at the school when her principal spotted her many theater credits on her resumé. She and the program she created are thriving.
I write about them today because Betsy and I plan to drive to Ball Ground tomorrow to attend a performance of the musical show Chaplin, based on the life of comic actor Charlie Chaplin, which is being staged at West Forsyth High School, where Maria is in her first year and has been cast in a role in the show. West High School boasts a strong drama program, and its director has had his eye on Maria ever since she performed in the title role of Annie in a local production several years ago.
The trip takes a bit over six hours, usually, and we certainly don’t mind the distance. It’s too bad, though, that they had to leave North Carolina to find an environment that values teachers and understands the importance of arts education.