On behalf of WEN, we thank all event participants, sponsors, judges, and guests for a successful event. Feedback received from our guests, participants, teachers, and parents, was that of praise, gratitude, etc. Don Betchel, Peabody Middle School Principal has this to say to WEN and our community partners who join us in making this event a success, “The event will be a wonderful reference point in our (students’ and teachers’) lives. You made a huge difference”. After the event, some of the teachers informed us that many students who were not among those appreciated approached them, asking how they could participate in next year’s Exploratory Examplaries Honorary banquet. One of the parents we met the morning of the event in the community even volunteered to come help and she was there as she promised up on to the end of the event helping to serve the students and the help from WEN’s sponsors, the International Military Students made a huge difference. WEN is humbled and honored that we helped to plant the seed of empowerment in the lives of Peabody Middle School students. This goes to show that there’s a fire in every child and person and given the right nurturing, the sky’s the limit. Together we can take Tri-City schools to the community and make that village happen for students in these schools.
Below are some of the collaborative moments worth mentioning:
Upon our arrival at the event location on May 25th and as we offloaded and settled in to begin decorating the hall, a group of smiley faced students walked into the room and introduced themselves as our helpers. This was shortly after the lunch period and after the custodians had vacuumed and cleared the tables. They indicated they were instructed by their teachers, Dr. Mbagwu to help us. They were very attentive and enthusiastic to take instructions. One of the students announced that she had helped her community on a number of occasions and understood exactly what was as of them. She swiftly led her fellow students to work as they quickly began covering the chairs and tables with the table and chair covers we gave them. Shortly after, a new group of equally happy students arrived with their teacher, Ms. Graves. Quickly they began covering the room with their art works. They so happy to help as they talked about how they looked forward to the evening.
Before long, a familiar face walked up to me asking if he could help. It was the boy with the quiet, relaxed but lighthearted attitude I had met the last time I was invited to present to his class. This time he looked serious as if on a mission and in no time, he was instantaneously moving from table to table, each chair and table looking meticulously beautiful, as he draped them with the linen we had also provided to him. When his teacher came into the room, she was surprised and we both couldn’t help but marvel at what he had achieved in a short period of time. This boy was Rodleke.
Roughly an hour to the event, some new faces arrived the event hall, dressed in their camouflaged military uniforms led by a tall and pleasant lady ready to begin work. These were WEN sponsors from Fort Lee. They were 8 students from the International Military Students Office of Fort Lee. As the event drew near all hands were on deck. It was a sight to behold. The entire room had lit up with the ambiance of an exquisite wedding reception waiting for the event to begin. The teachers, the soldiers, WEN volunteers, and Rodleke, were at work as a team.
The hall was full, with all the chairs and tables seated with parents, their families and friends ready to cheer their children on. Ms. Graves’ band ensemble entertained the audience with music that sounded like it were from an orchestra with years and years of experience. It left us wondering what hidden talents hid in Peters-burg, VA untapped. On one corner of the room were the International Military Students working diligently, arranging the food and drinks. In no time, the plates were filled with cakes and drinks beautifully laid out on the tables. Right after arranging the deserts, they were positioned behind the food trays and when it was time to serve the guests, they scooped the foods into each guests’ plates. The students and their parents were nicely dressed and the students were very happy.
When it was time to receive their certificates from their teachers, the students walked majestically to the stage to be recognized and awarded. Kudos to them! We could see the happiness in their parents’ faces. During the presentation of the 1st Annual WEN essay competition winners, Mrs. Robin Williams, who enthusiastically offered to be the WEN Essay Committee lead judge, announced that the essay was judged by the collaboration of several judges in the United States and overseas. She informed the audience that the essay was judged based on the essay contest guidelines provided to the committee. The essay contest winner was Mr. Joseph Briscoe, who was presented with a certificate and a $100.00 dollar gift card in the honor of Col. Frank Underwood Sr. Gracing the occasion, was Dr. Nasser Ghariban, in honor of Dr. Haile Dawit, Dean of Virginia State University (VSU) Engineering and Technology Department and our community partner. We thank the department for accepting to join in advancing the academic excellence of Peabody Middle School and other schools in the Tri-City area.
The success of the event would not have been possible without the support of Dr. Betchel, who so graciously empowered his teachers and students to dream this big. WEN is full of thanks to the Peabody Middle School Teachers, Ms. Graves, Ms. Johnson, Mrs Akadi, Mrs. Forbes, Pastor Pierre-Louis, and Dr. Mbagwu, whose objective mindset toward coordinating the event for their students made sponsoring the event so easy and planning so enjoyable. Their admiration for their students is exemplary. The leadership displayed by Mrs Robin Williams is commendable and goes a long way to showed a lot can be done when organizations work together. The capable hands and brains of our WEN Peabody Middle Planning Committee members, Mr. Michael Peterson, Mr. Godfrey Garret, Ms. Carol Goodson, Dan Okafor, Jennifer Kalu, and Mr. John-Nathan Agina speaks volumes as they worked round the clock to ensure the process was seamless. To little Rodleke, WEN says he is the superhero of the event because he cheered his fellow students on by staying till the end of the event and helping. He would not have been able to exhibit such leadership and volunteering spirit had his mother not been as supportive. To his mom we say “Thank You”. Lastly, the custodians, whose contributions often go unnoticed, we raise our caps for them for their hard work and ensuring everyone was fed.