Teacher has support during fight for her life

Published 5:32 pm Saturday, October 20, 2018

Every Wednesday, Warren Central math teacher Sylvia Strong skips school.

She’d much rather be there.

Wednesday is the day when Strong, who is battling breast cancer, goes in for her chemotherapy treatments.

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She’s always back in the classroom on Thursday, however, with a positive outlook and a smile for her students.

On Friday night, the Warren Central community took the opportunity to make Strong smile with their generosity.

The school honored Strong during its home football game against Clinton with a release of pink balloons at halftime and a fund raiser at the gate. Strong also performed the ceremonial coin toss before the game, which was also a “pink out” that recognized other breast cancer victims and survivors. It was an outpouring of affection that blew the teacher away.

“It is very, very humbling. I’ve only been here for five years, but they have taken me in and I feel like such a part of the family here at Warren Central,” Strong said. “I was diagnosed in March with breast cancer and my principals have been amazing. I miss one day a week because of the chemo, but they have been so understanding and worked with me so much.”

After Strong was diagnosed, word spread around the school and several student organizations jumped into action. The Chick-fil-A Leadership Club, Vikettes dance team and Mu Alpha Theta math honor society put together a fundraising effort to help Strong.

The groups bought T-shirts and sold balloons at Friday’s game for the halftime release. The shirts cost $12 and the balloons were $1. Amber Davis, the Leadership Club’s faculty advisor, said the effort raised about $350 that went directly to Strong.

Davis added that the students did almost all of the planning and execution of the fundraiser by themselves.

“A lot of students knew of her or had had her class and knew of her plight. She would never say it’s hard, but they know where she is on Wednesday. They said, ‘We see the sacrifice you’re making for us and you’re still fighting. It’s an action, not just words,” Davis said. “It’s been amazing to see them so passionate about something and seeing them bring it to fruition.”

During her battle with breast cancer, Strong has inspired her students and fellow teachers with a positive attitude and strong faith.

“Every time I walk out of geometry class I have a smile on my face because she’s got a joke for us,” Warren Central sophomore and Leadership Club member Violet Magee said.

Davis called Strong a role model.

“She’s never complained. She’s never thought she couldn’t beat it. She took me under her wing when I first got here and she is what I want to be,” Davis said.

The love and appreciation is hardly one-sided. Strong said the support she has gotten from students, faculty and administrators has helped her through the fight.

“It helps so much. Everybody is so helpful. They lift me up in their prayers. It’s very humbling,” Strong said.

Strong joked that a bit of sympathy has also helped curb any discipline problems in her class.

“They’re very concerned. They want to make sure I feel OK. They’re very good in class,” she said with a laugh.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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