Board of Ed. celebrates achievements, contributions at annual awards night
Over 50 students, staff and community partners from Prince George’s County Public Schools honored
Highlighting and honoring the spectacular achievement of students, staff and community partners affiliated with Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), the Prince George’s County Board of Education held its 2016 awards night celebration and gala on May 19 at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt.
NBC 4 morning news anchor Aaron Gilchrist was the master of ceremonies. Guest speakers included Board of Education Chairman Segun Eubanks and PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell.
“For many years, the board of education has recognized the accomplishments and achieve- ments of our students,” Eubanks said in an interview. “In the last couple of years, we decided to bring it up a notch and kind of make it more like the Academy Awards and the Grammy’s and to make it really special because the achievements of our students are really special.”
Eubanks said the board awards is about recognizing both students and adults who have made great contributions academically and through community service.
“This is so important to me,” he said. “We make important decisions. We make tough decisions. We have tough board meetings
[and so this is] an opportunity for us to truly celebrate our success and is just critically important. It revitalizes us as board members [after] those long nights and arduous decisions. These events help us say, ‘Ok, I’m ready now for the next board meeting. I’m ready to keep going because we see the fruits of our labor just as much as we see, more importantly, the fruits of the labor that the students put into this work.”
Over 50 nominees were honored for their great contributions as their families sat in the audience, cheering as their names were called.
“I love this county and I love this school system,” said Maxwell as he gave congratulatory remarks before awards were presented. “We are on the right track and tonight, looking out at all of you, it reminds all of us that … there are fantastic things going on in every school across the school district. … We can’t do this by ourselves. It’s tough work being parents. It’s tough work being teachers and principals but it benefits our children. As a parent and as a long-time educator, that is what we’re all here to do.”
The awards featured about seven student and six adult categories including Scholar of the Year, Spirit of Service Award, Student Leadership Award, Student Excellence Award, Student Artist Award, Comeback Kid Award, Scholar Athlete of the Year Award, Alumnus of the Year Award, Business/Community Partner of the Year Award, Rookie Teacher of the Year Award, Parent/Guardian of the Year Award, Unsung Champion Award and Lifetime Achievement “Great By Choice” Award. Student nominees were recognized at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
The event also recognized special high school students for their excellence in education, wherein they received either a CEO, community service, culinary arts, leadership, technical or trade scholarship. The family of NeShante Davis – a 26-year-old elementary school teacher who was shot and killed by her daughter’s father in a Fort Washington parking lot – was presented with a Rookie Teacher of the Year Award, which they accepted in honor of Davis.
Thomas Stone Elementary School student Kevin Agustin and Amari Fontenelle from Drew Freeman Middle School won the Comeback Kid Award for their respective category level. Agustin, a third grader, started off struggling to follow norms and put forth effort but managed to have significant improvement in academics. Agustin’s reading level grew from at risk to proficient, with his overall Scholastic Reading Inventory score increasing from 96 to 516 within a period of four months, according to a PGCPS information sheet.
“It means a lot that he knows that he can do things without [his family] being there,” said Agustin’s sister, Wendy Agustin. “We’re a big family of 10 and sometimes [he’s not the only one] doing bad in school but other kids too like my other sisters. It’s a real struggle because my parents don’t know English and they’re not aware of the common core education that he’s receiving. But we try our best to pay attention to each and every one of them.”
“He’s very grateful and he’s very happy. He’s very disciplined and likes to study a lot. We’re glad – no words to explain it,” added Agustin’s father, Elfido Agustin.
Fontenelle, a seventh grader at Drew Freeman Middle, began attending the school in September 2015 after transferring from D.C. Prior to his transfer, Fontenelle experienced a traumatic encounter— he was shot by a neighbor and witnessed his mother being shot and killed by the same alleged person. Fontenelle was then placed under his uncle’s care, who is now raising him and his younger sister. Instead of allowing adversity to be a detriment to his future, the 13-year-old persevered through his transition and has demonstrated strength, endurance and maturity, the school system noted.
“I’m happy that my principal nominated me and just to show my family that I’m still pushing even though my mother is deceased,” Fontenelle said. “No matter what obstacle that I face, I will always make something big in life. [I hope] to finish the businesses that my mother had started and to be a politician.”
Fontenelle’s school principal, LeTrecia Gloster, said he worked hard and is very proud of what he has accomplished during his short time at Drew Freeman Middle.
“He’s demonstrated perseverance, dignity and pride,” said Gloster. “He’s very intelligent, a dynamic student, a student leader naturally, full of energy, very witty personality and a sense of humor. But he [also] has a sense of direction and a sense of focus that we’re very proud of.”
When it comes to being intelligent with a sense of direction and focus, Jenelle Collier is just one of many students doing amazing things. The 17-year-old senior from Surrattsville High School received the CEO scholarship for her excellence in education.
“It feels so amazing that the CEO of my county considered me for such an honorable scholarship to help me out with college and everything,” Collier said. “This year, especially, trying to juggle getting ready for college and my [Advanced Placement] AP courses this year. But overall, time management has been the hardest thing this year. I’ve learned to manage my time wisely so that when I go into college, I’ll be able to do it better.”
Now that she has a scholarship, Collier said she plans to study neuroscience and explore internship opportunities.
“I am very proud of Jenelle. Jenelle has represented Surrattsville in the most amazing way,” said Kristi Holden, school principal. “Just for our CEO to honor one of my students is like, ‘Yes!’ We’re putting the Hornets on the map and we’re just going to keep them there.”
The Lifetime Achievement “Great By Choice” Award went to Charles Hamilton, a building su- pervisor who has worked at Melwood Elementary School in Upper Marlboro since 1967. In addition to maintaining the overall grooming and upkeep of the school, the school system said Hamilton goes “beyond the call of duty… with a smile.”
In addition to making picnic tables for the school courtyard, he created a chess table for the students.
“I always believe the kids or the scholars come first, then the parents, then the staff,” Hamilton said. “Anything I could do to help the kids to learn or something like that, I was willing to do it or anything I could build, I did it. It was all for the kids and it all payed off.”
For Eubanks, the board awards not only reflect what students are accomplishing everyday, but the stories of how the support of their families and great teachers helped them along the way, he said.
“We want to be able to tell the community, loudly and boldly, just how wonderful our students are and the adults who serve them,” said Eubanks. “The public needs to see that when families choose Prince George’s County Public Schools, they’re making a great choice.”
Melwood Elementary School Building Supervisor Charles Hamilton, center, shakes hands with Board of Education Chairman Segun Eubanks after Hamilton is named PGCPS’ 2016 Lifetime Achievement “Great By Choice” Award recipient. Hamilton has worked at the...
Thomas Stone Elementary School third grade student Kevin Agustin, second from right, smiles as he holds his plaque after winning the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Comeback Kid Award for his level during the 2016 Board of Education Awards Night...