HAMLET — With a new semester starting up for 2020, recognition was the main specialty for the Richmond County Board of Education’s January meeting held last week.
Richmond County Schools Public Information Officer Jasmine Hager started off the meeting the same way each one does: by handing out this month’s Inspiring Excellence Awards. The recipients were Maria Douglas, Christie Arias and Daniel Diggs.
“Maria wears many hats for RSHS. She handles the front desk at the busiest place in the Richmond County School System. She drives a bus at the beginning and end of each school day. Ms. Douglas is also our bus coordinator,” said Hager. “In her head, she holds the bus routes, neighborhoods, addresses and students for the entire county. There is not a road or route she does not know.
“If a bus driver has a last-minute emergency and cannot drive, Maria can stand in the middle of hundreds of swarming students and redirect every student to the correct bus and get them safely home. After four years, I am still amazed at her ability to coordinate the Raider buses and many shuttles we run during each school day.”
Up next was Arias, whose importance to the high school is found in her job title of Raider data manager.
“Imagine putting together the hardest 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle. Now imagine all the pieces were blank. That is the job of the Raider data manager,” Hager said. “Ms. Arias puts together a master class schedule that includes 90 teachers, RCC, Ninth Grade Academy and over 1,600 students with completely different needs. She manages registrations, student information and I dare you to mess with her during report card week.
“But Christie will also grab a radio during fire drills, monitor class changes, work the front desk and anything else you need her to do. She can bark out orders like a drill sergeant, but she is also the first to give you a hug when one is needed.”
Diggs, the third recipient of this month’s Inspiring Excellence Award, is a teacher who started his education career by substitute teaching and quickly found himself as an important member of the high school.
“Daniel is a great role model for perseverance and going that extra mile,” Hager said. “His original career path was not in education. But when life interrupted, he started a new job,” Hager said. “While waiting for his opportunity, he was subbing at the high school. He did a great job and was offered a teaching position. That could have been the end of the story, but Mr. Diggs has meant much more than that to the high school.
“He has quickly moved from beginning teacher to a go-to faculty member,” Hager continued. “He has taken on multiple classroom preps from Physical Science to Biology to Anatomy to Environmental Earth Science and AP courses. He has handled every assignment with enthusiasm. Mr. Diggs’ love for the Raider Band led to his role as the assistant band director. During some very difficult transitions, he was the glue that held the Raider Band together. Over the last three years, Mr. Diggs’ commitment to the band and RSHS has been truly inspiring.”
Continuing in the meeting, Suzanne Hudson, a teacher at RSHS and a Beta Club adviser, went to the podium to talk about a student who wanted to do something for others during the holiday season.
“In 2018, Brandon Streeter came to me, and I’ve never taught him, and he said, ‘I wanna do something to help the less fortunate.’ And I said, ‘Okay, what do you have in mind?’ And he said, ‘I wanna collect undergarments for Place of Grace.’ I thought that’s a great idea,” said Hudson. “So he did a flyer, and we put it on social media. We shared it everywhere. He got a tub, he contacted Place of Grace to find out what they needed, and we did the collection.”
Hudson said Streeter came back to her last year and wanted to continue the tradition of the helping the less fortunate. While helping Streeter, Hudson said she found out that socks and undergarments are the most requested items for homeless shelters.
“We were very proud of Brandon, and we also gave him a check to donate to Place of Grace in his name for $250, which they greatly appreciated,” Hudson said. “I had the honor both years of accompanying him to Place of Grace and to see him unload the cars with all of his friends and take all the donations in, we had two carloads full this year.”
Toiletries, brand new towels, socks and undergarments were delivered to the homeless shelter along with 15 new pairs of shoes from L.J. Bell Elementary School, according to Hudson.
“It was just a wonderful way to end the holiday, but we’re really proud of students like Brandon who see a need in the community and step up and do something for just doing the right thing,” she said. “It’s a wonderful example of what we have at our school and what we see at our school on a daily basis. We’re just really proud of Brandon and everything that he’s done.”
Finally, Jace Bendell, a student at Richmond Early College High School, got up to talk about the second annual Elves on the Run 5K and One Mile Jingle Bell Jog that was held on Saturday, Dec. 14 at First Presbyterian Church in Hamlet.
With the help of his church, his family, Richmond County Schools, the Hamlet Police Department, the Beta Clubs from Richmond Early College and Rockingham Middle School, sponsors, volunteers and donations, Bendell called the event a great success.
“We grew from last year in numerous ways,” he said. “Not only did we have our Christmas music playing, huge candy cane archways for runners to run through, hot chocolate and cookies with Santa Claus and lots of other normal festivities at the race, but we were also now able to call our race global.
“We were able to have a virtual runner all the way from Kuwait. This runner is someone who is in the military who ran last year and is now overseas,” he continued. “We also had more participants to race and more sponsors to donate this year. There were 175 people signed up to either walk or run in the race and numerous local businesses in the community who helped us sponsor the cost of the event. This event would not have been possible without the businesses and sponsors in our community.”
Bendell went on to say that all the proceeds from the runners, businesses and donors were able to help buy Christmas presents for more than 25 students who attend Richmond County Schools. Because of the growth of the event and people’s generosity, there was also extra money after helping the students within the school system.
“We decided to take that extra money and donate toys for a local Toys for Tots that would be distributed to our Richmond County School students. We felt this cause goes along directly with our purpose since Toys for Tots also helps to provide Christmas presents to our children, once again in our local area,” he said. “Elves on the Run was able to fill up five boxes of toys.”
There was also a competition between schools in regards to Elves on the Run, and the school with the most participants would receive a cash prize. Bendell said he was happy to announce that his school, Richmond Early College, will receive that award.
“The money that was received will go back to the students in the way of clubs and organizations that compete in state competitions,” said Bendell. “Therefore, the students who may not get to attend because of financial means will have an opportunity this year. None of this would’ve been possible without a lot of heartfelt people who came out to support a great cause. I’m so thankful for these supporters.
“My only hope is that people were able to feel the Christmas spirit a little more because of a great cause,” he continued. “I cannot thank everyone enough who had a part in this event. It was a lot of work, but I’m excited to say I plan on continuing to have the event each year. I hope that each year will become just as successful as years to come. This way we can help more students have the Christmas they deserve.”
The third annual Elves on the Run 5K is slated to kick off on Saturday, Dec. 12 at First Presbyterian Church in Hamlet.