“We’re not alone” – Celebrating the Champions Who Support Ready for Work at Suitland High School

February 27, 2019

“We have to work together for the success of our students,” says William Lee, Assistant Principal at Suitland High School, one of ten educators named as Ready for Work Champions at Suitland High School this year.

“It is important that our children know that there are opportunities for them. Just today, a former student who graduated two years ago came to meet with Mr. Burke and was introduced to Year Up [NCR], one of the youthCONNECT partners,” says Mr. Lee. Sterlind Burke is a Ready for Work In-School Director, who supports both the faculty and youthCONNECT partners from inside of Suitland High School, ensuring that Ready for Work is meeting the school’s needs.

Mr. Lee says, “Students who have graduated know that there are connections here for them. That’s critical, especially for our brown boys. We see too often young people on corners with no jobs, no opportunities, so the fact that we can provide a strong education for our children – a rigorous and challenging education in addition to career-readiness – the importance cannot be overstated.”

youthCONNECT is built on the knowledge that together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. As part of our Ready for Work initiative, youthCONNECT nonprofit partners meet students where they are and identify their needs. Then, they work together to help students do well in school, graduate on time and be well-prepared to pursue their career or college goals.

None of this is possible without the support of teachers and school staff who connect students with these partners, and give the partners space to work together with each student’s unique needs, whether that’s academic improvement, developing job skills or receiving personal mentorship. “We’re not alone. We have a network of partners in the building. It’s not just me in the classroom, and students get support throughout their whole high school career,” says guidance counselor, Richelle King.

Each year, VPP and our youthCONNECT partners set aside a day to recognize the partnership with teachers and faculty members and staff who devote resources and energy to support students. Our youthCONNECT partners (PeerForward, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, Maryland Multicultural Youth Center, Urban Alliance and Year Up-National Capital Region) identify and nominate them as a Champion. In each nomination, partners explain why their Champion deserves the honor. Homeland Security and Military Science teacher John McDaniel received a nomination because “he diligently supports students through the application process for internships through Urban Alliance, consistently works behind the scenes, and creates opportunities for his students to gain relevant work experience in the Homeland Security field.” English teacher Olivia Nolan “is a vital partner of PeerForward. She has truly impacted the lives of students and is 100 percent dedicated to ensuring they are prepared for the future.”

Preparing students for life after graduation requires the help of everyone in the school. School Secretary Nicole Colbert’s “continued assistance to Year Up [NCR] has been important in making [their] transition to being onsite.” Of Building Services Engineer Aaron L. Dorsey, Jr., Hillside partners say, “Aaron continually ensures Hillside’s office is clean each day for us and our students, frequently checking on us to make sure our needs are met.”

And Mr. Lee “is very supportive of youthCONNECT partners, making himself available to collaborate about both student interventions and parent engagement.”

In Suitland High’s main hallway hangs a banner honoring Champions with the praise from their nominations. The Ready for Work Champions of 2018 – 2019 are:

  • Nicole Colbert, School Secretary
  • Aaron L. Dorsey, Jr., Building Services Engineer
  • Geanita Everett, Professional School Counselor
  • Denyce Kinard, School Secretary
  • Richelle King, PeerForward Advisor (Rela/English)
  • William Lee, Assistant Principal
  • George McDaniel, Student Advocate
  • John McDaniel, Homeland Security & Military Science
  • Wanda Noel, Testing Coordinator
  • Olivia Nolan, PeerForward Advisor (English)

“I’m excited, I’m grateful,” says Ms. King. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to stand out.”