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C.S. Brown students say school has saved them

WINTON – Tears of joy gathered in the eyes of many long-term educators here Monday night as they witnessed what several later called the culmination of their careers.

During that evening’s monthly Hertford County Board of Education meeting, seven students from C.S. Brown Student Development Center spoke during the public input portion.

“I just wanted to tell you all how the new school has encouraged me… whoever thought of that was brilliant,” stated Nsonji Sessoms, the first of the students to speak.

He continued, “If not for the program at C.S. Brown I’d probably be walking the street, doing drugs and getting into all sorts of trouble, but thanks to the program I can change and try to be a better influence. I have learned that without a good education, I can do nothing.”

Sessoms, who had previously dropped out of school, added, “I made a decision to do right and go back to school and I’m doing it. I got tired of hearing older people say they wish they could go back, so I did it before it became too late for me.”

C.S. Brown, which had previously served as a sort of temporary facility for troubled students, was officially accredited for the first time this academic year as a high school.

Students who are two years behind their original kindergarten class, or at risk for being two years behind, are eligible to attend the new school. Disciplinary referrals are no longer accepted at C.S. Brown.

Michelle Lassiter, a senior at C.S. Brown, told the board proudly, “This year I will be able to graduate. Without this school I would have probably dropped out already or would be aging out.”

“I enjoy C.S. Brown because it gives me a chance to get a diploma when I probably wouldn’t at the other high school,” added classmate Antwan Lee.

Another student, Candice Staton, stated, “C.S. Brown is a great opportunity because it gave me a second chance and a better environment. There are less people so there’s less trouble and more one-on-one with the teachers. Many people thought I wouldn’t make it, but when I was put at C.S. Brown there are a lot of people who push you to meet your goals… and now I am really serious about getting my diploma.”

Keyonia Williams, a student who will potentially be eligible to graduate in one semester, noted, “C.S. Brown gave me this chance to graduate so then I can get a job because it is hard to do without an education. I want to be the best at everything I do because I know that’s best for me.”

Nikkiah Stewart, who is a student at C.S. Brown, told the board she is the mother of three children and yet is determined to still graduate.

“People have already written us (C.S. Brown students) as the students who will not graduate, but I’m here to tell you that we can and we will. I have three children and I make A’s and B’s. I will graduate this year and I will walk across the stage with my head held high and a smile on my face for all those who put me down,” she stated.

Yet another student, Nathaniel Lococo, admitted that he had been planning on dropping out of school before he heard about C.S. Brown’s alternative program to earn a diploma.

“I was going to drop out… but I heard of C.S. Brown so I decided to try it and now I like it. The classes are a lot smaller and it’s easier to concentrate,” he noted.

After the students spoke, the emotionally moved school board members addressed the students one by one.

“Continue to believe in what you just said and you’ll do fine,” remarked board member John D. Horton.

J. Wendell Hall exclaimed, “This is what public education is all about.”

Board member Dennis M. Deloatch admitted, “Tears came to my eyes when I listened to you all because I genuinely hear the seriousness and the hope that you all are conveying.”

He continued, “I was like you once, I struggled in school… tonight, you have made my dream come true. This is everything I’ve ever worked for in education.”

David Shields added, “The thing that struck me is several of you said you’d already dropped out or were thinking of dropping out, but stayed in just because C.S. Brown was there… now that it’s a school and graduates students. That’s what it’s all about.”

Superintendent Dr. Michael Basham told the students, “I’m very proud of the way you all articulated your plans and your goals. You are doing an excellent job.”