Young: Heritage football coach E.K. Slaughter, students still changing lives in Nicaragua

Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Heritage football coach E.K. Slaughter also teaches the Catoosa County high school's Leadership One class, and some of his students have traveled to Nicaragua to provide aid to the community of Tomas Borge at the Katie Beth Carter Memorial Institute.

RINGGOLD, Ga. — The bond between Heritage High School and the community of Tomas Borge, Nicaragua, grows stronger every year, with a new chapter beginning soon.

What started out as an idea to help expand the minds of students at the Catoosa County school has, through the work of students and volunteers over a six-year span, turned into a generation-changing relationship with one of the world's most impoverished areas.

E.K. Slaughter, Heritage's head football coach since 2014 and teacher of the school's Leadership One class, had a plan in mind to partner with a third-world school. Through a series of — as Slaughter puts it — opened doors, the simple idea has blossomed into what now is the Katie Beth Carter Memorial Institute, a secondary school that is helping change the lives of families once stuck in an endless cycle of poverty.

Now a campus that also includes a medical clinic and an agricultural area is set to add an elementary school with the aid of a small community thousands of miles away.

"None of this was the original plan," Slaughter said. "Several years ago we were just going to find a school to partner with. We learned about the opportunity to build a school, and a donor was going to build that school, but that donor backed out.

"So we had to find a way to pay for it. It's been one of those things that just happened. A door opened and we walked through it, and another door opened and we walked through that one, and so on.

"We thought it would be years before we opened an elementary school, and then we had a visitor who came down and loved what we are doing and committed to donating lots of money to build it."


With help from Lamar Brown, the Catoosa County school system's director of student services who had connections with a local Nicaraguan, Jeremy Barcenas, the partnership was formed and Impact2One — the name of the Heritage organization — was created.

Around that time, Heritage was hit by a tragedy as Katie Beth Carter, a recent graduate of the high school, was killed in a vehicle accident while returning to Jacksonville State University on Labor Day in 2016. Carter had been a leadership student and had dreams of joining her parents someday as a teacher. The Impact2One group decided to honor her by naming the planned school in Tomas Borge in her honor.

After raising $60,000 in conjunction with Live And Love Ministries, which was founded by Jason and Amy Carter (Katie Beth's parents), ground was broken for the KBCMI in February 2017, and the first set of Heritage students and teachers arrived in April, with a second following in December.

The school opened its doors in 2018 for a few programs, and in 2019, classes began for seventh and eighth graders. A new grade has been added every year since, with grades seven through 11 now in operation.

"It's a really challenging area, one of the worst in our hemisphere," Slaughter said. "The school has an 87% graduation rate, and like 93% of the graduates go on to further their education. That's at least five or six times the normal rate there. It's been amazing. Everything is run by Nicaraguans, and we take teams from the school multiple times a year to help maintain it.

"There are education opportunities around them, but the quality of education at our school is at a whole different level."

KBCMI graduated eight students in 2022 and 15 this year, with some 20 or more expected next year.


Slaughter and the Impact2One group have made multiple trips to help with ongoing construction, work in the clinic and form relationships with students and their families.

They are going again this week as the next phase of the plan begins. With funds for the building of the elementary school in place, the group is holding a fundraising coast-to-coast relay run to pay for the day-to-day operation of the school.

"We need $5,000 a month to meet the operating costs," Slaughter said. "Our hope is to get at least 250 child sponsors at $20 per person, recurring monthly. We have until 2025 to raise that, but we hope to get a good start."

Details on how to become a child sponsor can be found on the Legacy Builders For Change website ( or by writing to

The runners, which include Slaughter, track coach Christie Richardson and several of her athletes, will cover the run in shifts. Richardson is excited to see the area for the first time.

"E.K. came to our practice and invited anyone on our team to participate," she said. "We have several going, and as a track coach and educator, seeing them want to help those people is special.

"They have worked hard, and it's just good to see these kids develop into the kind of people who want to help others."


The children and families in Tomas Borge aren't the only ones who benefit from the volunteer work. Heritage senior Brooke Fairchild, the school's valedictorian and a member of the track team, is about to embark on her third trip.

Like every student who has volunteered, she was moved by the quality of life in the area and the lack of basic essentials that can easily be taken for granted.

"The poverty is awful down there," she said. "I knew they didn't have much, but I didn't realize they had that little. They are happy to see us, and their parents are so proud of them for going to our school. I like being a part of that and starting change for that generation."

Slaughter said the Heritage students are inevitably affected by what they see.

"It's been really cool to see the change in them and the way they think and the way they dream," he said. "We've had kids go down there and change majors, and we've had kids go down there and later went back as missionaries.

"Others have come back and completely changed who they are because it gives you a different idea of gratitude. There are things you can learn down there you can't learn in a classroom."

Still, it's the families in Tomas Borge who are being changed forever, and it's the ultimate payoff for the volunteers.

"For those kids," Slaughter said, "it's given them not only better education, but also those relationships have given them the ability to dream for a different future in their life because they have grown up in poverty we just can't comprehend.

"It's just different. There's no government assistance, so for those kids it's not easy for them to dream about a different existence, but going to our school has given them hope for breaking out of some of those generational chains of poverty."

Contact Lindsey Young at