I had the pleasure of volunteering with Comstock Northeast Middle School this week to help with their Celebration of Learning Awards. What a special event! Even though my part was very small, the event had a large impact on me.
Students and parents were greeted by smiling CNMS staff, and then joined their community in the cafeteria where Ryan Cousins set up the photo booth and also took pictures. Some students were dressed in summer dresses and collared shirts, while other wore more casual clothing.
The buzz in the room was electric. Every child was anxious.
When accepting their awards, students walked the red carpet to applause from all around the room. Smiles were big and heads were held high. Each student’s achievements were celebrated by the teachers and audience, my heart was filled. I was invited to volunteer at this event by my good friend and Principal at CNMS Kelley Howard. Before and during the ceremony, Kelley and I talked about how important this awards event was to this particular group of kids. You see, this was not your average awards celebration.
Mrs. Howard explained to me the difference between this awards night and others. Historically, awards have been awarded to students who operate at or above grade level, based on class grades. These awards recognize students who began the year below grade level and showed significant growth. Kelley said, “We are inspired by these steady Eddy’s and want them to know that there are many ways to measure success.”
The highlight of the night for me came when Shelley Esman, Academic Coach and organizer of the event, was conducting a drawing for prizes that ranged from new books, to headphones and other small items. She was assisted by Alesia Walsh and Jen Sylvan, both Title I teachers who are these students teachers as well as Shelley’s partners in planning. An older boy’s name was called and he came up on stage to accept his prize. He turned around with a huge grin on his face, a new basketball in his hands, practically skipping back to his table. He held the new basketball like it was a treasure that would disappear if he took his eyes off it. His mother came over to where Kelley and I were watching to say thank you, and that her son had just started going down to the park to play basketball. It was the best thing he could have received. Her words and look of appreciation brought tears to my eyes.
This amazing, heartfelt event was paid in full by the school, teachers and staff. I witnessed first-hand the love and hope that CNMS has for its students which begins with their principal and emanates through teachers and staff. In a school where over 75% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, support for events such as these is crucial.
I was honored to be a part of this event and would like to thank the staff at CNMS for making me feel so welcome. I look forward to volunteering more of my time with them this summer and coming school year. Keep on the watch for more of my adventures at CNMS!