Foundation celebrates eighth MLK Day event

Published 9:48 pm Monday, January 17, 2022

The S. Delois Mayes Scholarship Foundation held its Eighth Annual MLK Day of Service Event on Jan. 17.

Each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the S. Delois Mayes Scholarship Foundation holds a banquet to remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and recognize outstanding students and teachers at Suffolk Public Schools. In past years, the event was an in-person fundraising event, but due to COVID-19 it has been virtual.

Two Suffolk high school students received the S. Delois Mayes Scholarship of $4,000 to pursue higher education. The first student was Brooke Barnes, who graduated in 2021 from King’s Fork High School. She is attending the University of Virginia, majoring in global public health with a minor in medical anthropology.

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“I want to thank the foundation for naming me a recipient, as it allowed me to pursue my higher education with little to no financial burden,” said Barnes. “While I don’t have a specific career path yet, I want to do my best to make an impact on global health equity.”

The second student was Marcus Green, who not only graduated from Nansemond River High School in 2021, but also graduated from Tidewater Community College and Paul D. Camp Community College. He is now attending Virginia Commonwealth University as a junior.

“This past semester, fall semester, was a great one,” said Green. “It was fun, I enjoyed it, and it wasn’t as stressful in the financial part because of the support from the donors, the support from the community and the scholarships that helped me on this journey.”

Since its start in 2013, the Foundation has awarded more than $68,000 in scholarships to Suffolk public school seniors in honor of president and founder Ebony Wright’s sister, who died in a car accident in 2002.

Along with the student scholarships, the event recognizes educators at Suffolk Public Schools. This year, two educators were recognized for their hard work, especially during the pandemic. Linda Johnson, the former mayor and recently a School Board member filling part of a term, presented the award to Claudette Pierre for her work as a special education teacher at John Yeates Middle School. Then, Lorita Mayo, the school board member representing the Holy Neck Borough, presented the award to Violene Sharpe, who is a math teacher at Lakeland High School.

Narendra Pleas, Suffolk’s newly elected Commonwealth’s Attorney and first African American woman to hold this position, was the keynote speaker and talked about the Martin Luther King Jr. quote that served as the theme for the event: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Pleas talked about what it looks like to do small things, even though folks have big dreams. She noted that in this statement, King acknowledged that as humans, greatness isn’t always achievable, but the result still can be.

“So what that means is we must always try,” she said. “If we never try, we can never do those small, great things. So at some point, you have to take that small step forward and put your foot out and at least try. “

She gave the scenario of someone who loves space and wants to be an astronaut. This is someone that wants to go to space camp for Christmas. They have NASA and star stickers covering their bedroom, they traveled to see a spaceship launch, and they even have planets tattooed across their back. This is someone fully committed to being an astronaut. However, they have horrible motion sickness that keeps them from traveling to space. So instead, they become astrophysicists to study the stars and universe and end up discovering a planet that was previously not detected.

“You didn’t have to become an astronaut to do something great,” she said. “You didn’t need to go where no man has gone before. You just needed to have a vision and to execute your plan.”