Students and teachers of West McDowell and Foothills Community Schools (FCS) gave a tour to the district’s congressman during a three-county event.

On Thursday morning, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R- 11) visited West McDowell Middle School and the FCS magnet program as part of one of three visits within the McDowell, Burke and Caldwell district scheduled for that day.

“The biggest things when I visit the schools are to understand the community through the eyes of their students and to applaud the efforts of teachers and the school faculty in terms of the investment they provide – they don’t get enough appreciation, in my opinion,” said Meadows. “I believe this is our 54th school that we’ve been to, and it helps us understand the community better beyond a schooling perspective. A lot of times, people think that Washington, D.C. has forgotten them, and I know that we’re not only the voice and the power of the people at rest, but they live each and every day doing things that are perhaps unnoticed.”

Guided by four West McDowell students and McDowell Schools Superintendent Mark Garrett, the congressman was provided a tour of the facilities and was welcomed by several FCS and West McDowell students and staff as he popped in on sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes during his visit.

Among one of the classrooms Meadows dropped in on was the band room, where students played 10 second demonstrations of John Williams’ “Star Wars” theme and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”.

“I remember being in band when I was your age,” Meadows told the class, “and seeing ‘Star Wars’ for the first time in 1977. I can also remember having to play ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ during that time as well.”

One of the more prominent stops during Meadows’ tour was the Foothills Community School, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) magnet program located on campus that focuses on hands-on initiatives, including Thursday’s projects of cardboard boats and “super-taster” paper strip tests.

By the end of the tour, Meadows lavished West McDowell Middle and Foothills Community Schools with praise.

“I was really impressed with the student leadership today,” said Meadows. “When you’re lucky to have students guiding you through the facilities, there’s not a filter there and you’re able to get a good perspective on everything. The quality of the students and the staff should be applauded.”

In Morganton, Meadows toured several downtown businesses, including My Local Bakery, Benjamin's and Libba's, Brown Mountain Bottleworks, The Kitchen Collection, The Natural Olive and Oak Hill Iron Works.

He was also confronted by a group of concerned citizens ready for an impromptu town meeting. The congressman took about 15 minutes to address the crowd's many questions regarding health care and the desire for an independent investigator to look into any Russian ties to the Trump administration.

Editor Lisa Wall of the Morganton News Herald contributed to this story.