The Chantilly Pyramid Minority Student Achievement Committee (CPMSAC) held its 35th annual Youth Motivation and Academic Achievement Awards Program on Saturday, June 1, at Chantilly High. Honored were middle- and high-school students, and the theme was “Persistence in Pursuing Higher Student Achievement and Academic Excellence.”
With their friends and family members cheering them on, the students being honored walked in, as is tradition, to the song, “Celebration.” Dignitaries attending included Fairfax County School Board members Karen Keys-Gamarra and Ilryong Moon, FCPS Deputy Superintendent Frances Ivey and Supervisor Kathy Smith (D-Sully).
MASTER OF CEREMONIES was CPMSAC President Johnny Nelson, whose late wife Shirley founded this all-volunteer organization to eliminate the school-achievement gap seen in minority students here. “She saw a need and was determined to do something about it,” he said. “The committee originally met at Chantilly Baptist Church until we decided to open it up to the whole community.”
Now, said Nelson, parents often come up and tell him their son or daughter is at Duke or Howard universities, Virginia Tech, or some other college, and it fills him with happiness and pride. “And that’s the reward for me,” he said. “I know it in my heart. Diversity is growing by leaps and bounds in Fairfax County, and diversity is what we’re all about. I look out among you and I feel so proud.”
Speaking next was Chantilly High Principal Scott Poole. “Our theme this year at Chantilly was ‘To connect, engage and inspire,’ to allow learning to flourish and encourage students to do the best they can so they can succeed in life,” he said. “It’s also important to promote equity across all FCPS schools to give all students hope that they can be successful. But it doesn’t happen unless students do the work and make the most of their opportunities – and you students here have certainly done so.”
Noting that she’s been attending CPMSAC’s youth-motivation and academic-achievement awards program for many years, Ivey said, “I’m absolutely thrilled to see it grow every year.” She then told the students, “We’re so proud of your hard work, dedication and success. We salute you and congratulate you for your success today, and we also thank your parents, teachers, principals, counselors, administrators and the Chantilly Pyramid Minority Student Achievement Committee. Students, we wish you a bright future – never stop dreaming and set no limits on yourselves.”
Proud that she knew Shirley Nelson personally, Smith praised CPMSAC, as well as its tutoring program, STEP (Saturdays Toward Excellence Program), in which local residents help students learn their academic subjects. “This is how we create a community,” she said. “It’s good to see all your parents here, and thank you, students, for all your hard work today so you’ll have a bright future tomorrow.”
Moon also acknowledged all the support given by the parents to advance their children’s education. And he congratulated the students on the next phase of their lives. “This is an event where we recognize your success and achievement,” he said. “And that brings me tremendous joy.”
THEN THE GRADUATING SENIORS received plaques engraved with their names, and the scholarship winners were announced. Also honored were the CPMSAC Humanitarian Award winners for service to their schools and communities. This year’s recipients were Chantilly High’s Dylan Sparks and Westfield High’s Saadig Hinton.
Receiving Shirley O. Nelson Memorial Scholarships of $1,500 each were Nyliek Brooks-Allen of Chantilly High and Christine Kearney-Ogburn of Centreville High. Brooks-Allen is going to Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina to study biology for one year. He will then transfer to York St. John University, north of London, England, to study international business and play soccer.
Kearney-Ogburn will major in English at GMU and plans to become an English teacher. “I feel really good about winning the award,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m happy about it.”
In addition, Cameron Guy Dudley Book Scholarships of $300 each were awarded to Westfield High’s Jourdan Farmer and Jesus Neyra. Farmer will attend Old Dominion University to major in marketing and business analytics. “It’s really exciting to get something that will help fund my future and my education,” she said. “CPMSAC motivated me to always keep my grades up and do well in school.”
Neyra is going to UVA to major in biology, chemistry or biochemistry so he can eventually go into medicine. “I’m honored to receive this award,” he said. “This is just one of the things that demonstrates my devotion to medicine and my achievement. Since elementary school, I’ve gone to CPMSAC’s awards ceremonies, and they’ve always been a motivation to push myself academically to pursue my goals and dreams.”