Travis Magnet Elementary wrapped up February with its Black History Month celebration all day Friday where students heard from prominent members of the community.
Six different speakers shared words of wisdom and encouragement to each of the grade levels at the school.
“I’m so excited to bring together Black History Month,” Travis Magnet Elementary Principal Amy Russell said. “It’s a culmination of what we’ve done all month long so every day, we’ve had a tribute to an African American from history because I wanted to bring these historical figures that (our students) are learning about to figures that are here in their community today. Today’s celebration is not about anyone from history but it’s African Americans that live here in Odessa and Midland and work here and raise their family here so my students can say ‘hey, they look like me, and sound like me. They have a dream. They’re successful and that’s what I want to be.’”
The speeches took place in the school’s commons.
“Every speaker had an entire grade level that came in,” Russell said. “There were six speakers throughout the day so each grade level got two opportunities to hear from the community.”
Attorney Gaven Norris who is also a Travis alumnus, was the first speaker for the day.
He was followed by University of Texas Permian Basin Director of Tickets and Game Operations Marquez Byrd.
Byrd told the kids what it means to be committed and showed them a multitude of different successful African Americans.
“I showed them from the start with them being in poverty or being in low, middle-income families, to how successful they became today,” Byrd said. “I told them it’s important to be committed and be committed to their goals.”
Byrd gave each student a card to write down what they wanted to be in the future, how committed they’ll be to their goal and how willing they are to achieve that goal.
“My biggest advice I can say is be committed,” Byrd said. “Like I share with these kids, it’s very important to be committed and have perseverance when it comes to your goals. If you don’t have that, then it’s hard to achieve a lot of your goals.”
Retired Administrator from Ector County Independent School District Shelia Stevenson was the next speaker after Byrd.
“I wanted to share with the fourth graders at Travis all the good things about themselves,” Stevenson said, who began her presentation by reading Maya Angelou’s famous poem titled “And Still I Rise”.
“The goal was to ensure that all of these young people understand the obstacles that are still in their way, they can rise above them,” Stevenson said. “They rise above it by having confidence in themselves. They rise above it by not worrying about the haters. They need to just focus on themselves because they are indeed kings and queens and we want them to have the best education that our system has to offer.”
Stevenson then brought up the background of the percussive, highly energetic art form known as stepping.
“I wanted the students here at Travis to understand that stepping started at Black colleges and universities,” Stevenson said. “When you step, it’s a fun dance and routine. Now, you’re seeing it more today. “
First Baptist Church Stanton Youth and Music Minister Albert Hall also spoke at the event as well as UTPB Music and Communication Major Damian Christian and KMID-TV Reporter and Weather Forecaster Bridget Sarpong.
“(The speakers) ranged anywhere from ex football players who are now working at the college to retired principal Mrs. Stevenson who’s very invested in the community and wants to continue the growth, continue the education of students about their culture and around them,” Russell said. “I have youth speakers from churches and colleges.”
The celebration ended with a special reading and songs of celebration from the school’s choir.
Travis Magnet Elementary School Celebrates Black History Month