Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced this year’s Black History Month student contest winners and Excellence in Education Award recipients. Black History Month is celebrated every year in Florida during the month of February and this year’s contest theme was “Community Champions – Celebrating the Contributions of African Americans in Florida’s Communities,” sponsored by the Florida Lottery and other partners.
“Our state’s rich and vibrant history continues to be shaped by the leadership and contributions of Florida’s African American community,” said First Lady DeSantis. “The Governor and I are honored to celebrate this year’s Black History Month student and teacher award winners and their achievements. It is our hope that today’s award recipients continue to share their gifts and serve as inspirations across our great State of Florida.”
“African Americans have contributed greatly to the history of our state and I thank Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis for hosting the 2021 Black History Month student and educator contests,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Congratulations to the student art and essay winners and the teachers recognized with the Excellence in Education Award.”
“As the CEO of Volunteer Florida, I’m thrilled to congratulate this year’s Black History Month contest winners,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Corey Simon. “Instilling a heart for service early on is critical to our personal development and community’s success. Volunteer Florida celebrates our student and teacher award recipients today as models of impact and pride in Florida’s communities.”
Student Essay Contest Winners
The following student essay contest winners – one elementary, one middle and one high school student – earned a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.
Brynley Ashraf, High Springs Community School, Alachua County
Brynley featured her school resource officer, Officer Adam Joy, who serves their community not only through his profession, but by giving back through his involvement with numerous organizations.
Harper Schuknecht, Sebring Middle School, Highlands County
Harper highlighted Joseph E. Lee, one of the first Black Floridians to practice law in our state who served as a judge as well as in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate.
Valeria Alfonzo Molina, Belleview High School, Marion County
Valeria wrote about James Weldon Johnson, a Florida-born educator, poet, novelist, journalist, anthologist, diplomat, lyricist, lawyer and civil rights activist.
Student Art Contest Winners
Hector Almendares Garcia, Driftwood Elementary School, Broward County
Hector is a first grader who drew a picture titled “My Community Champion – Coach Mack” depicting his Physical Education instructor, Coach Mack, who Hector says teaches him and his fellow students how to be healthy.
Immanuel Howard, W. A. Metcalfe Elementary, Alachua County
Immanuel is a second grader who drew a picture titled “My Hero, Mr. Henderson.” Immanuel describes Mr. Henderson as his hero because of his work as a custodian at his school, keeping it clean and safe so students can learn.
Excellence in Education Award Winners
First Lady Casey DeSantis also honored three outstanding educators with Excellence in Education Awards. The recipients were nominated by students and peers.
Frances McEachern, Beverly Shores Elementary School, Lake County
An exceptional student education instructor at Beverly Shores Elementary School, Frances McEachern is known for always being upbeat and having high expectations for her students. As a teacher for students with disabilities, McEachern is encouraging and excels at motivating those in her classroom.
Leslie Cooper, Richmond Heights Middle School, Miami-Dade County
Leslie Cooper, a music teacher at Richmond Heights Middle School, developed Black History Month segments presented twice a week to highlight legendary poets, musicians, writers, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance period. The students have been enriched through their music and arts education thanks to Cooper’s efforts.
Delmar Wilson, Miami Springs Senior High School, Miami-Dade County
Several years ago, Delmar Wilson came to the realization that there were not enough minorities in computer science courses at Miami Springs Senior High School. He worked to develop a new course and recruited students to enroll. The class has now become a popular one to take with the student body during the subject selection process.
To learn more about Black History Month, visit www.FloridaBlackHistory.com