October 08, 2008 Edition

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Members of the Cummins family are (from left): Lance, a first semester student at Williams Baptist College; Bethany, an eighth grader ; Richard; Connie; Tip, a third grader; Megan, who is working in West Memphis; and Timothy, a high school junior.
Submitted photo

Cummins children attend
school in U.S. for first time

Frank M. Witowski Jr.
Staff Writer

"Wonderful young people, a pleasure to work with. They caught on very quickly and made a lot of friends."

Walnut Ridge High School Band Director John Long said these words about Timothy and Bethany Cummins who are attending school in the United States for the first time in their lives. They have lived in Thailand for the past for 10 years.

"Growing up on the other side of the world is a lot different," Bethany said. "I've experienced a different way of living than here."

For some young people, the culture shock and environmental change could be quite intimidating, but Timothy, Bethany and their youngest sibling, Tip, have dived right in and are making a positive and lasting impression on the Walnut Ridge School campus. They are the three youngest children of Dr. Richard and Connie Cummins.


Timothy, age 16 and a high school junior, has made a name for himself as a kicker on the high school football team, although he hadn't played football before now.

"It's fun," Timothy said. "They don't have football there (in Thailand) so this is my first time being able to play. I didn't know all the positions because I didn't grow up watching or playing it."

Walnut Ridge High School football head coach Larry Treadway has been thrilled to have Timothy on the high school football team this semester.

"Tim's an exceptional guy," Treadway said. "He's an excellent kicker and pretty close to breaking in on a starter position on defense or offense. He's very athletic and has been a great addition to our team. We're so pleased he fit so well here."

Timothy credits his athletic strengths from his school in Thailand. "Our school focused on sports because it's the way to minister to the Thais around us," he said.

Timothy says in Thailand, he participated in soccer, futsal (indoor soccer), volleyball, basketball, track and field and swimming all year long to keep him very busy and in shape.

"When I told the coach I played soccer, he got really excited ... ," Timothy said. "As soon as I told them that, I was the kicker."

He said practicing with the team during the summer helped him as he transitioned into school in the U.S.

"I got to meet some of the guys I would be going to school with and had friends when school started," he said. "That helped me get more comfortable."

Timothy said he has not learned all the plays in football but is learning and will soon be playing other positions for the team. Besides playing on the school football team, Timothy is an active member of the marching band. He did not initially join marching band because he was concerned that football, band and schoolwork might be too much for him. However, he is doing well being involved in both activities.

Summing it all up, he said, "I saw it on T.V. and heard about it, but I have never been to an American public school until now. It's cool to finally experience it."


Bethany, age 13, said one of her best experiences since coming back to America has been playing in the marching band at the Walnut Ridge School.

"You have to be able to play and march at the same time and be able to play your notes," Bethany said. "I practiced my marching a long time at home."

She said being involved in the marching band practice before the school year began helped her to transition quickly. However, she admits to being very sleepy the first two weeks of school as she adjusted to the 12-hour time change for Thailand. Bethany said classmate Holley Yates made things much easier for her by showing her the ropes and helping her to learn where her classes were located.

"Everyone's pretty friendly and asking questions and curious," Bethany said. She has a different view of American culture now that she's seen things firsthand. "I heard about it from friends (in Thailand), but now I've been a part of it."

One of Bethany's eighth grade teachers, Lloyd Clark, said Bethany is doing great in school. "She shares some of her culture with the students and seems well accepted by her peers," Clark said. "She's a pleasure to have in our class here."

Bethany said she looks forward to sharing her experiences in marching band when she returns to Thailand.


Tip, age eight, is the youngest of the Cummins children and was adopted by the missionary family as a young child. She lights up a room with her smile and is outgoing and well-mannered, said her third-grade teacher, Erin Kennemer.

"Tip is such a joy in class," Kennemer said. "It seems like she's always been a part of our school. At the end of every day, she wishes me a good night or a good weekend. She has touched my life in the short time she's been here."

Tip said one of the biggest things to learn was the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. She said she misses not having her Thai language class.

Her favorite subject in school, whether in America or Thailand, is art, and one of her best friends here is Anna Wilcoxson. Tip is happy she gets less homework in the U.S., although there are fewer holidays during the school year because schools in Thailand observe many Buddhist holidays.

Timothy, Bethany and Tip experienced riding a school bus for the first time this year. In Thailand, they traveled to school by songtao, which is a covered red pickup truck with seats and serves the same purpose as an American taxi cab.

The length of the school day and curriculum is about the same, with a little less homework, according to the Cummins children.

They said they have enjoyed being able to wear different clothing in the United States while attending school. In Thailand, students wear school uniforms.

On six-month furlough

Richard and Connie Cummins and their children arrived in the United States July 11 on a six-month furlough as missionaries to Thailand, where Dr. Cummins has been serving as missionary logistics coordinator for the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention the past 10 years.

Although the family has visited the U.S. twice on short leaves during the past 10 years, the three youngest Cummins children had never been enrolled in an American public school. Timothy, Bethany and Tip have made memories of a lifetime as students at Walnut Ridge School, and their teachers said they will be greatly missed when they return to Thailand Dec. 30.

Timothy said he wants to return to the area after he graduates from high school and attend Williams Baptist College. He said he plans to participate on the college's soccer team, although he hopes they will add football to the schools sports program. "Football is what I will miss the most about America," he says.

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