Mable Oatis of the Wechsler Foundation in Meridian, Mississippi, sent us this great look at how their group teamed up with the CAF Red Tail Squadron to inspire a school in need! The Wechsler School in Meridian, built in 1894, was the first brick schoolhouse built with public funds in Mississippi for African American children. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a Mississippi landmark. It continues to serve the community by providing after school services, social enrichment, theater art, music and other activities in a supervised and safe environment.
The Wechsler Foundation recently hosted the CAF Red Tail Squadron in Meridian. It was a lot of effort from the people of our community, but by embracing the Six Guiding Principles, based on the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen, we were able to make this dream a reality.
We used our brain
In the beginning, we did not yet have the budget to cover the all costs of the event, but our group contacted the CAF Red Tail Squadron and scheduled the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit. We had already applied for and received a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and history, but it required matching funds. We quickly got to work and applied for grants from the Meridian/Lauderdale Division of Tourism, Phil Hardin Foundation and the Riley Foundation to fulfill this requirement and secure the funds needed for the event.
We believed in ourselves
Our foundation firmly believed that bringing the CAF Red Tail Squadron to Meridian would inspire others to help us restore the Wechsler School building. The timing seemed perfect, especially since Mississippi is celebrating its bicentennial, but it was hard work. We knew our story was worth telling, and that others would believe in us as well.
We never gave up
It was disheartening when we were turned down from some of the grants we applied for, but when individual donors started showing their support by sending in what they could to help, we were inspired to never give up.
With our donor support and the grants we were awarded, we had enough to cover our costs and pull off an amazing event that brought a greater awareness of the importance of our mission. With those funds we were able to help Wechsler School rise above.
We aimed high
When our original event location fell through, we aimed even higher and ended up at the Meridian Airport, which was the best location for what we wanted to achieve. It was such a joy!
At times it felt like a tough road, but we were ready to go and for some six months we had Red Tail on the brain! Our team at Wechsler Foundation rose above the obstacles that came up during our event planning, and we want the children to see that they too can RISE ABOVE!
After the event, the Meridian Star published the article, “RISING ABOVE: Red Tail exhibit inspires many at Key Field.” We felt blessed by the positive outcomes of our event. The lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen, and how they were able to overcome obstacles, was inspiring to our community, and helped our foundation make a difference in our fundraising for the Wechsler School!
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.