Bowser centennial event recognizes teachers, awards $11,000 to 3 education groups

Published 6:05 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The KLM Scholarship Foundation marked the centennial celebration honoring the life and legacy of Florence B. Bowser with recognition of teachers and $11,000 in special presentations.

Three Florence B. Bowser Elementary School teachers were recognized during the celebration held Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront.

Quatisha Young received the foundation’s Trailblazer Award.

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Young graduated from Wayne Community College with a bachelor in science degree and from East Carolina University with a bachelor degree in elementary education, according to her bio in the program. She has a master of education degree in curriculum and instruction from Averett University. Young served in the U.S. Army Reserves for eight years. She has taught first and second grades in North Carolina and Virginia. She currently serves as the grade level chair and member of the leadership team. She also was awarded Teacher of the Year.

Young is a proud wife and mother of three children, and has one granddaughter. She enjoys spending time with family and friends and dancing. Ever since she can remember, she wanted to be an educator. She believes that in order for students to have a passion for learning, she must have a passion for teaching. It is her mission to make a difference in children’s lives and to motivate them to learn.

Christabelle Poku-Amanfo was honored with the Emerging Leader Award.

Poku-Amanfo graduated from TCC with an associate in social science and from Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education interdisciplinary studies. She started as a pre-K teacher at St. Andrews Preschool, and substituted for Suffolk Public Schools. She then started at Florence Bowser as a paraprofessional. After three years, she transitioned to be a first grade teacher, which she has been doing for two years now.

Poku-Amanfo has been married to husband, Akwasi, for 20 years, and they have two sons — Isaac, 14, and Jacob, 11. She loves working with young children who are full of imagination. She said in her bio that it is a blessing to be given the opportunity to instill a love for learning from an early age. She enjoys crafting, spending time with family, and taking walks on the beach.

Teacher Rebecca Wooddell received the Excellence in Service Award.

Woodell graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology, according to her bio in the program. She started as a substitute teacher in 2003 with Suffolk Public Schools. In 2004, she became a paraprofessional at Driver Elementary and then transitioned to the new Florence Bowser building. She has worked with every grade level, kindergarten-fifth.

Woodell loves science and nature. Her favorite thing to do is to hike various National Parks and photograph them. She has traveled through Europe visiting museums, galleries, historical sites and to experience different cultures.

She and her husband have been married for 20 years, and they have a 13-year-old son, Jacob.

As the evening proceeded, the KLM Scholarship Foundation then made three contributions to area educational organizations.

Belinda Pitts accepted $500 for the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.- Suffolk Alumnae Chapter. Pitts serves as the chapter president.

Another $500 contribution was presented to Winifred Ridley for the Virginia State University Alumni Association- Tidewater Alumni Chapter­. Ridley is the chapter president.

Concluding the recognitions, a $10,000 contribution was announced for Florence B. Bowser Elementary School and Suffolk Public Schools. SPS Superintendent Dr. John Gordon was on hand to receive the funds on behalf of the schools.

The evening marks the legendary and pioneering work of Florence Brickhouse Bowser, who was born in Norfolk. She attended the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, which is now known as Virginia State University, where she graduated in 1892 with a degree.

She is known for her resilience, determination and passion for education. This commitment led her and the Sleepy Hole District School Improvement League into a partnership with the Rosenwald Rural School Building Program.

“She spent tireless hours organizing and spearheading various fundraisers to secure monies that were matched by the state of Virginia and the Rosenwald Rural School Building Program”, later known as the Julius Rosenwald Fund,” the information on Bowser explained in the program. “All funds were used to build the Florence Graded School, the first Virginia–based Rosenwald school built for African Americans in Suffolk, Virginia (then Nansemond County) during 1920.”

The Florence Graded School received a historical landmark designation in 1967.

The Graded School was replaced during 1962 with the Florence Bowser Elementary School. A new school bearing her name was then constructed in 2018, and continues to serve city students today.

The KLM Scholarship Foundation, which organized the Sept. 24 centennial event, is dedicated to supporting education. Founded nearly 20 years ago, it has filled a tremendous financial void with its book scholarship program that pays for college textbooks and supplies for qualifying students.

Those attending the celebration were honored with special addresses by three of Bowser’s granddaughters — Bonita Landy Gilchrist spoke on the purpose of the celebration; Laurinda Cameron shared her great-grandmother’s history; and Marriah Edwards read a tribute poem that honored Bowser.