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First Annual Shining Beacon Gala Evening puts focus on Student Success

During the May 15 First Annual Shining Beacon Gala Evening for Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School (WMST PCHS), for all the speeches by adults, 30 honored students emerged as the champions. Nearly 200 people attended the event, which took place at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University in Washington.

Robyn Lingo from The Posse Foundation of New York, one Gala speaker, announced that WMST PCHS senior LeJon Vines had won a $100,000 scholarship to attend the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. The Posse Foundation identifies urban public school students with extraordinary academic and leadership abilities who may be overlooked by traditional college selection process. LeJon was one of more than 1,200 seniors who applied for 51 scholarships.

Dr. Alice Franklin-Rier, science teacher and head of the Science Department, won the Teacher of the Year award.

Masters of Ceremonies for the three-hour event were Curtis Etherly, Jr. and Tracee Wilkins. Etherly is a former chairman for the WMST PCHS board of trustees who is also an alumnus of the Ballou Senior High School’s Mathematics, Science, Technology Program that served as WMST PCHS’s predecessor. Etherly is vice president of public affairs for Coca-Cola Enterprises Bottling Companies, and Wilkins is a general assignment reporter for NBC4.

In an impassioned introductory speech, Wilkins exhorted WMST PCHS students to continue to overcome the odds against them. She paid tribute to the dozens of honored students in attendance for showing that students from modest backgrounds who lack family connections can make it.

Dr. Mary H. Johnson, the foundress of WMST PCHS and first principal, gave the keynote address, as attendees ate pan seared filet of salmon and chicken piccata. She serves a math coordinator for TRIO Student Support Services at the University of the District of Columbia.

Other speakers included Mark Holbrook, head of school at WMST PCHS, and James A. “Mitch” Mitchell, president of the WMST PCHS board of trustees.

Elena Dobson, managing director for operations at WMST PCHS, organized the event along with a committee of WMST PCHS teachers.

The 11-member WMST Gospel Choir also performed, under the direction of Ms. Gail Freeman. Rev. George C. Gilbert, Sr., pastor of Holy Trinity United Baptist Church in Northeast Washington, gave the invocation and benediction for the dinner.