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

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

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...

STAFF PHOTOS BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

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...

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