The event held on May 21 at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church was led by mistress of ceremonies and chair of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) Youth Activities Task Force (YATF) Thelma D. Jones. It focused on the accomplishments of area youth and the work of our school system to improve their education and lives. The program began with a recap of some of the work accomplished by YATF and the SWNA Education and Scholarship Task Force (ESTF), the forum’s annual coordinators.

Jones discussed the important programming, including the Computer-for-Kids (CFK) training, field trips, and other activities facilitated by YATF. They have led several important efforts to assist children in the community and work with schools to ensure they are able to achieve their missions. An important aspect of YATF’s work focuses on the CFK training, which trains Southwest youth (ages 6-12) on how to use the computers for various tasks, including receiving a refurbished computer for their continued use from the SWNA Technology Task Force. CFK graduate Trumonty Briscoe, 7, and her family, including her older sibling Laffette Copeland, a former graduate of the program, represented the most recent graduating class. At Jones’s invitation, Copeland performed a solo, something he did during the CFK graduation more than five years ago. Jones also recognized Trumela Copeland, their mom, for her encouragement and support in having the most children (four) to graduate from the CFK training from one family.

Additionally, Jones recognized Paul Taylor, who was the recent YATF CFK graduation speaker, for his dedication and commitment to the community. Taylor, now a program analyst at the Department of Corrections, was the former site lead at King Greenleaf Recreation Center.

ESTF chair Vyllorya Evans followed with a recap and discussion of the accomplishments of their task force in aiding local students as they move on to college careers. Evans also reminded the audience of the importance their donations make in funding these important scholarships, highlighted in the work of past recipients such as current ANC6D Commissioner Rhonda Hamilton and Benjamin Sands, one of ESTF’s first scholarship recipients, who will be performing at an ESTF scholarship benefit in the SW Jazz Night series this summer. (More information on donating can be found at https://www.swnascholarship.org/.)

The primary portion of the evening was then dedicated to a panel discussion with our local education leadership: Tamikka Sykes, principal at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School; Greg Dohmann, principal at Jefferson Middle School Academy; and Sah Brown, principal at Eastern Senior High School. This panel discussion was led by Natalie Gordon, instructional superintendent for DC Public Schools’ Cluster VII. Topics of discussion focused on the important academic changes underway at each level of educational instruction and improvements being seen. There were also conversations on the importance of technological literacy and understanding appropriate uses and respectful dialogue, which are an ever-increasing part of students’ lives. The principals also discussed the important topics of the moment in how they are addressing bullying and broader school safety, stating that they constantly work to have a safe and secure environment that still feels inviting and encouraging to foster a desire for the students to learn. Finally, they offered suggestions on how SWNA could further support the schools’ efforts through engaging their students with opportunities such the CFK training and the potential for submitting articles for The Southwester.

The program closed out with a tribute to the late Dr. Beryl C. Rice, former SWNA president, YATF chair, and prominent community figure, by one of her mentees, ANC6D Commissioner Rhonda Hamilton. Delmar Weathers and Perry Klein also gave brief tributes to Rice.

By: Ryan Pierce

Chair, SWNA History Task Force

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