By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — —
The Jefferson County NAACP will present Freedom Awards to members of the community during its annual Dr. Martin Luther King luncheon.
The 2013 NAACP of Jefferson County annual Dr. Martin Luther King program will be held 11 a.m. Jan. 21 with the theme “In Pursuit of the Dream through Educating the Community.” The event will be held at the Mt. Vernon Holiday Inn.
Those receiving Freedom Awards this year will be Dr. Michael Smith, Mt. Vernon Township High School superintendent; the Rev. Jeff Campbell, United Methodist Children’s Home and City Schools District 80 board member; and Nikita Hughes, a local probation officer, said the Rev. W. Ron Lash, Jefferson County NAACP president.
“Freedom Awards are given to those that impact the community and reflect the goals of the NAACP in equality and creating opportunities in the community,” Lash said.
Lash said Smith was chosen to receive a Freedom Award because he “works hard to make a difference in our youth and in the community as a whole.”
Hughes, he said, works to provide direction and help for those on probation, including finding work and community service work for them to do; Campbell recently accepted a different job in Peoria, and the NAACP wanted to recognize his efforts in the community before he left.
Academic Achievement Awards will be presented to area students during the luncheon. Academic recognition will be given to freshmen through senior students as well, Lash said.
“We gave away five scholarships at the beginning of the school year,” he said. “They were given to Whitney Malone, Adrienne Doggan, Brandi Lash, Jessica Green and Brandon Williams Meeks.”
The partnership between Good Samaritan Regional Health Center and the Jefferson County NAACP will continue with the awarding of a $2,500 scholarship to a student interested in health care.
To qualify for the scholarship, the student must be an individual who is currently enrolled in a health care-related degree program or a high school student who plans on enrolling in a health care related degree program in the fall.
Finally, the NAACP will recognize the Hardee’s/Red Burrito restaurant at 1600 Broadway.
“They give a lot of support to the community and some of the churches,” Lash said.
The keynote speaker for the upcoming event will be William Jenkins, an author and educator who lives in St. Louis, said Jefferson County NAACP President the Rev. W. Ron Lash.
“His approach is change through education,” Lash said. “His books that he writes are specifically directed toward education, not only for African-American children, but the school system and the needs of the community as far as education goes.”
Jenkins was born in Greenville, Miss., in 1943, growing up during a turbulent time in American history, information from his website, www.jenkinsedex.com, states. He graduated from Jackson State College in Jackson, Miss., in 1968, and “almost from the day of graduation” was pulled into the Civil Rights movement, information states.
“Having been called to the ministry while I was still in high school, I assumed a leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement throughout the sixties,” information states. “I lectured at colleges and universities all over America. During that same period I hosted a radio program, ‘The Search For Human Dignity,’ that could be heard in 14 Southern states.”
Jenkins left Mississippi in 1973, attending Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary, later settling in mid-Missouri as a minister in Fulton and Columbia, Mo. He moved to St. Louis in 1978 and began teaching in the public school system, before transferring to the Parkway school district.
“I taught at Parkway North High School, a predominately white school,” information states. “As fate would have it, the year I started teaching in the Parkway school district, the district became involved in a court-imposed desegregation program that bussed black children from St. Louis city to the predominantly white schools in West St. Louis County.”
Jenkins was the only black teacher at the school, he wrote, so he felt a special obligation to do everything he could to ensure that the black children coming into the district got the best education available.
“It was during my work at Parkway North that I learned and practiced many of the techniques and strategies that I have written about in my books and teach others how to employ in my workshops,” he wrote on his website. “I still see myself as a Civil Rights worker. The Civil Rights Movement has now moved to the classroom.”
Jenkins wrote he believes that black children must get a quality education in order to function as independent and contributing citizens in this society.
“I am as passionate about the education of black children today as I was about the voting rights of their grandparents in the sixties,” information states.
Reduced-price membership to the Jefferson County NAACP will also be available during the event.
To purchase tickets, contact any NAACP Jefferson County Branch member, or call Ron Lash at 241-9004, Cleo Holt at 214-8257, or Elbert Cain at 237-8161.