SRHA honors achieving residents

Published 10:21 pm Saturday, August 20, 2011

About 70 people turned out on Friday evening to help honor young people and adults who are succeeding in education.

The ceremony, held by the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, recognized public housing and Section 8 residents who are either making the honor roll in school or furthering their education as adults. The event feature motivational speaker Alton Jamison.

About 200 young people who live in public housing or Section 8 made the honor roll at least one time last school year. Four adults also were honored for furthering their education, including one woman who recently received her GED and another who earned a nursing certificate.

Alton Jamison, motivational speaker, held a pair of handcuffs and wore an orange jumpsuit during his speech Friday evening to remind young people not to fall victim to “mental handcuffs.”


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“I think it’s a really good idea for them to do this,” said Doreen Harris, whose daughter Amiya Bailey made honor roll every quarter last year. “It encourages them to keep getting honor roll.”

Amiya, 8, is a rising third-grader at Driver Elementary School whose favorite subject is math. She said it’s important to get good grades “so you can pass.”

As for Derrick Riddick Jr., the son of Derrick Riddick Sr. and Anita Waters, his favorite subject is history.

“I just like learning about what happened back then,” said Derrick, who also enjoys math. He’s a rising sixth-grader at King’s Fork Middle who went to Booker T. Washington Elementary School last year.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for the kids to see we appreciate them,” his mother said. “They do have somebody to stand behind them when they do good.”

The young people received medals or trophies, depending upon how many times they made the honor roll. The adults received briefcases.

The dozen or so honorees who attended sat in the front row and listened enthusiastically to Jamison’s speech. He appeared on stage carrying handcuffs and wearing an orange jumpsuit with “Department of Corrections” on the back.

He told the story of his father, a wrestling star in high school who couldn’t get his life together afterward. He made bad mistakes, including robbing a bank on a dare.

He recalled visiting his father in prison, being unable to hug him because he was shackled in handcuffs.

“I felt that I was mentally handcuffed,” Jamison said. “He looked at me and he said, ‘Don’t end up like me.’ That was a defining moment in my childhood.”

Jamison explained that to him, mental handcuffs are restrictions people place on themselves.

“If you’ve ever said something like, ‘You don’t know my situation,’ you have mental handcuffs,” Jamison said. “My father was mentally handcuffed long before he was physically handcuffed.”

On Feb. 20, 2004, Jamison said, his father made his last bad mistake when he jumped into the James River from the Robert E. Lee Bridge in Richmond.

“Always know there’s hope,” Jamison said. “My father didn’t know that. Don’t get caught up in that.”