December 1, 2021

McGraw Clay Target team teaches safety, respect, appreciation

Photo provided by Fleurette Clough

McGraw students Blake Weeks, left, Jacob Bilodeau, Zander Weeks and Blake Bergy shoot last spring as part of the McGraw High School Clay Target League team. The team, created in 2019, recently received ammunition from the National Rifle Association.

The Clay Target League team at McGraw High School started two years ago in part from Superintendent Melinda
McCool’s childhood growing up in a family of hunters and the lessons hunting teaches.

But moreso, she said Friday, she created the team to help teach students how to be safe and informed with weapons in a community where they are prevalent.

“There’s a healthy respect for firearms for how they’re used,” McCool said.

The team was recently awarded 26 cases of ammunition by the National Rifle Association.

“We’re really happy with that,” said Fleurette Clough, a coach of the team. “Ammo is incredibly high priced and hard to find” due to supply shortages related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The team has more than 25 students from grades 7 to 12 and competes in the trap shooting events in the spring league of the New York State High School Clay Target League, she said. The team has been meeting in the fall for practices, as well.

Requirements to join include completing a hunter safety class and an online safety class through the state league website.

“It had a lot of interest to begin with and it was very well received by the staff, community and kids and we’re hoping to keep it going in that direction,” Clough said.

While the shooting is in person, competitions are virtual, meaning scores are posted online and the team doesn’t travel.

Still, McCool noted that it’s the fastest growing extracurricular activity in the district.

The district had a rifle club when she attended in the early 1980s but that it went away some time after that. Bringing a shooting club back to the district, though, has many benefits for students, she said.

When students first start, they are taught how to safely use a rifle. This, she said, is very important in McGraw, as many families in the village own weapons and hunt.

It also helps provide the fundamentals and skills for hunting, which help students understand their surrounding natural life and wildlife.

“It builds on the appreciation for the environment and the world we live in,” McCool said.

Those fundamentals built in the team and then brought to hunting in the real world also have an impact on the wellbeing of people, as hunting can provide a family with one or multiple meals when money is tight, she said.

Clough said she hopes the team can grow to participate more frequently in national events.

“I think we have to maintain our continued interest, practice and make sure we have some students who are eligible to participate,” she said.

For McCool, the team is just another way for the district to develop informed and active citizens.

“In schools, it’s part of our mission to make sure our students are safe and productive,” she said.