Col. Fred Cherry Middle shines with Purple Star award

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 2, 2024

It was a momentous occasion for Colonel Fred Cherry Middle School as they celebrated becoming a Virginia Distinguished Purple Star School. Suffolk Public Schools students and families, as well as Cherry’s family members and school officials, came together for the Col. Fred Cherry Middle School Purple Star Recognition Ceremony and Banner Unveiling event on Tuesday, Jan. 16, located at 7401 Burbage Dr. The evening saw performances by the CFCMS Band and Orchestra along with a tribute to Col. Fred Cherry provided by students Bailey Cummings and Kaylin Guzman respectively. 

Likewise, Capt. Gregory Benton served as a speaker for the ceremony. Benton talked about the significance of the recognition.

“We are here to shine the spotlight on the Purple Star Program and the incredible efforts this school has put forth in supporting our military connected students and families,” Benton said. “The Purple Star Program, a beacon of distinction, is awarded to military friendly schools that have exhibited a significant commitment to the wellbeing of students and families connected to our nation’s military. It’s not just a recognition. It’s a testament to the dedication and empathy that Colonel Fred Cherry Middle Schools owes for those who serve our country.” 


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Following the ceremony, SPS Chief of Schools Dr. Stenette Byrd talked about the achievement for the school and overall division.

“We have a lot of military families, specifically in the northern end of our [city]. We know the challenge of students moving in and out of different states and things like that,” Byrd said. “So this recognition is just an honor for us because what it says is that we create that welcoming environment and that we have things in place to make that transition easy for our students and families.”

SPS Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III agreed with Byrd while reflecting on various students who continuously move with their military families.  

 “As a former member of the Virginia Interstate Compact for Military Children, I understand the importance of the welcoming environment that Dr. Byrd is referring to,” Gordon said. “Under Dr. Byrd’s leadership, we actually challenge our schools to all become Purple School Designation for support of military families and I’m so happy that Col. Fred Cherry, which is named after a former military member, is one of ours that accomplished that goal.”

Reflecting on his thoughts on the recognition, CFCMS Principal Dr. Jamel Gibson expressed how honored he was while also thinking about future families attending.

“I run this building by kids first. Everybody else comes after kids because that’s what it’s all about. So when you’re in such a transcendent school, you have to always be mindful of kids that struggle with transition,” Gibson said. “So I am thinking about things that we can always do better, be more accommodating for military families as well as just the general population of our schools.”

Likewise, on what he hopes families and their students took away from the night’s recognition, Gibson says he hopes people will see that they are a military friendly school.

“We acknowledge that the military is here for our benefit, for our safety. They are the watchers on the wall. I want folks to just be able to take away the fact that we try our very best to service our kids and meet their every needs, and that’s very important,” Gibson said. “I realize tomorrows are not promised, but they are fantastic when they arrive. And so we just try to be ready for whatever may come up.”