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Head Start director honored as leader by Milligan College

Photo by Erica Yoon Creola Miller, Director of the Carter County Head Start Program, was honored by Milligan College Tuesday by being selected to receive the Leaders in Christian Service Award. She is pictured with Dr. Donald Jeanes, left, college president, and Tom Olyer, guest speaker for the event.

By Lesley Hughes
Elizabethton Star staff

The fourth annual Leaders In Christian Service Awards were presented Tuesday with one of the honorees being a 35-year employee of the Carter County School System.

Creola Miller, Director of Head Start, was noted as being instrumental in the school system’s gaining a $1.8 million grant in 2004 to establish Carter Cares, an afterschool program in seven schools serving over 600 children per day. She is also a member of First Christian Church where she coordinates a first and second grade children’s worship program.

The three-year grant can be seen at work in each of the afterschool locations through a partnership with Milligan College, Carter County Health Council and other organizations with activities provided by over 70 local organizations that partnered with the school system promising a commitment to provide activities and services.

For example, on Tuesday afternoons at Cloudland Elementary and Little Milligan Elementary, Garry Mullins, owner of Mullins Shao-lin Kung-Fu in Johnson City, gives kung-fu instructions to students. Tennessee Technology Center provides information for good healthy habits and disease prevention. Doe River Gorge presents lessons on team building exercises, problem solving, and hosts two events where Carter Cares students visit Doe River Gorge. Angie Odom, with Abortion Alternatives, runs a program called Guard Your Heart, teaching children about the difference between good touches and bad touches from other people. Several schools offer instrument lessons, teach children to read music, and to play songs at a very young age.

After graduating from Milligan College in 1970, Miller went to work with the Carter County School System as an elementary teacher. Thirty-five years with the system has brought her into the position of Director of Head Start where she says her focus “is all about the kids.”

As for being named a Leader in Christian Service, Miller said, “I don’t feel deserving of this. It is just a part of my life and it is what I do. My life is all about the children.”

In the future, Miller hopes to be able to start a preschool program in Carter County. She said, “The money is out there, but all we need is a place to hold it.” She said $70,000 would be enough to purchase a modular classroom to hold 20 students, which could be divided into two separate classes. She hopes to be able to put this program in place before she retires in the coming years.

Carter County Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood program for low-income children and their families. Providing children with a learning environment which will help them develop socially, intellectually, physically and emotionally in an age appropriate manner is the primary goal of the program.

Miller and her husband, Shelby, have two daughters Amy, 29, and Wendy, 27.

The honor is symbolized with a basin and towel representing the lives of Christian service to which the College and its members are dedicated. They remind us of our Savior who came not to be served but to serve, of His example as He washed the feet of His disciples, and of our commitment to humble service in learning and in life.

“The purpose is to recognize those individuals who are doing an outstanding job of integrating their faith with their profession,” said Milligan President Donald R. Jeanes. “This is not an award but a way to provide examples for our community and especially to our students of what servant leadership is all about, and what it can look like on a daily basis in a variety of professions.”

Other recipients were Dr. Frank and Mrs. Betty Anderson, a dentist and volunteer in Johnson City; Tim Burchfield, franchise owner of Chick-Fil-A, of Johnson City; Jeff and Claudia Byrd, President of Bristol Motor Speedway and Director of Speedway Children’s Charities, of Bristol, Tenn.; Tom Chase, retired Addiction Counselor at Woodridge Mental Health, World War II veteran and member of Mountain States Health Board; Mitch Cox, owner of Mitch Cox Development and founder of Coalition for Kids in Johnson City; Janie Dosser, retired Registered Nurse of MSHA, Johnson City; Bob Garrett, president of Atlanta Investments, Inc., Johnson City; Elizabeth Ann Hay, retired professor of King College and founder of Holston Habitat for Humanity, Kingsport; John Melton, Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Washington County Operations with MSHA, Johnson City; and Bill Walker, principal of Rogersville City Schools, Rogersville.

Keynote Speaker was Tom Oyler, the lead pastor at Grace Fellowship Church. After graduating from Purdue University and Dallas Theological Seminary, Oyler came to Johnson City in 1980 when GFC was in its infancy. For the past 25 years, he has served Grace Fellowship as it primary teacher. Oyler and his wife, Leslie, have three grown children.

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MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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