What is a Champion?
There are two kinds of champions that exist in this world. Some champions wear the medal and take the crown. These seek to win and are usually the ones who get applause and all the glory. On the other hand, there are those champions who also put forth a lot of effort, but often times go unrecognized for all that they do—unsung heroes.
At Suitland High School, our inaugural high school in Prince George’s County where we have launched youthCONNECT, there are champions who go above and beyond to support students. Every day, these champions embrace their roles in shaping the futures of students by devoting their time and effort to inspiring, uplifting, motivating and positively influencing students.
Honoring Our Unsung Heroes
youthCONNECT at Suitland High School is made up of five nonprofit partners that build a supportive community to collectively improve education and employment opportunities for students. Our youthCONNECT partners recognized that helping students requires the energy and efforts of faculty and staff. Each nonprofit partner selected champions to be honored for all that they do.
The honored champions are those who exemplify what it means to have a collaborative spirit and to be committed to the success of young people. These champions help our nonprofit partners by reemphasizing the importance of the youthCONNECT programming, lending their classroom management expertise and referring students to the youthCONNECT partners for services that they need.
“ It’s not easy to present traditionally uncool topics like professionalism and etiquette to over 350 students on my own,” said Brittany Johnson, Program Specialist for Urban Alliance. “Having champion educators in the school who actively participate by reemphasizing the importance of these topics to students has been super helpful.”
Working Together for a Greater Purpose
Both the youthCONNECT partners and educators at Suitland leverage each other’s resources to ensure that students are graduating high school career- and college-ready. Teachers want to make sure that their students are leaving high school as healthy and happy young adults who are ready to take on the world, so they turn to the partners for extra support. The youthCONNECT partners want to make sure that they are not missing a student who is really in need of their services, so they look to teachers to refer them to the students that they encounter each day.
This partnership between the two is helping students reach new heights, learn about themselves, discuss their aspirations and discover ways to reach them. Having champions who are supportive of the students when sometimes they have no other support is essential.
Mr. Broadwater, a Barber Academy Teacher at Suitland High School, is proud to be a champion. “I do it from the heart every day because it gives me the opportunity to give back education and life lessons that others have given me,” said Broadwater. “Working with youthCONNECT helps give our students the education, resources and confidence they need to be successful, and I’m proud to be a part of molding them.”
Creating a collaborative environment and bridging the space between partners and the faculty and staff takes time and effort from our Ready for Work In-School Director, Sterlind Burke. “One of the key factors for the success of the youthCONNECT model is to ensure that communication between the educators at Suitland High School and the nonprofit partners,” said Burke. “It’s exciting to be able to identify a challenge and assemble these two parties to figure out the best solution.”
Together, youthCONNECT and the educators at Suitland High School are developing and cultivating a culture and environment that helps students reach their full potential. They also ultimately build a family as stated by Yolanda Quintanilla, Lead Promotor and In-School Coordinator for Maryland Multicultural Youth Center. “Everybody needs somebody and the champions in the school create a family that gives students hope for the future, said Quintanilla. “I might not be able to support students in the way that they need it, but knowing that there are others who are there to help makes me optimistic.”
The youthCONNECT partners at Suitland High School , College Summit , Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, Maryland Multicultural Youth Center , Urban Alliance and Year Up selected the following champions:
Natika Cromer, Advisor and English Teacher
Crystal Joseph, Front Office Management, Principal’s Secretary
Toni Gray, English/College Summit Teacher
Alethia Wilkins, English/College Summit Teacher
Beatrice Ndikum, Science Teacher
Melva Cramer, Registrar
Wilma Elbouhnini, Technical Academy Teacher
Robert Parrish, Guidance Counselor
Stephanie Nelson-Butler, Guidance Counselor
Mayavine Gatlin, Business Academy Teacher
Tywarren Broadwater, Barbering Academy Teacher
Peyton Tomblin, Technical Academy Teacher
Eileen Mayfield, Assistant Principal