Local woman’s journey has been well worth the ride

Published 4:08 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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MIAMI, FL – It’s a long way from the train tracks in downtown Conway, NC to the sun-slashed beaches of Miami, Florida.

Simene’ Walden, a native of Conway, is a 2024 recipient of the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award. Contributed Photo

No matter the distance, and some bumps in the road along the way, Northampton County native Simene’ Walden has made that journey – which included stops in Fayetteville, NC, Charlotte, NC and Brentwood, Maryland – pay great dividends….morally, spiritually, and monetarily.

Known for her messages of hope and empowerment for schoolchildren, educators, and parents as well as a best-selling author, Walden was honored on April 20 in Miami where she received the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award.

President Joseph Biden’s award letter states, “The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. I congratulate you on taking it upon yourself to contribute to the public good, and I’m proud to present you with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award.”

“When I received the final approval that I would be a recipient of this prestigious award, I cried,” Walden told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in an interview last week. “I was overwhelmed with so many emotions and I just cried. I have cried a lot since getting the news and since receiving the honor.”

A native of Conway, Walden graduated in 1999 from Northampton County High School-East. She earlier attended Willis Hare Elementary and Conway Middle School.

“Once I went away to college and learned about so many other cities and towns in North Carolina, my heart was filled with even more gratitude and joy for being from a small town called Conway,” Walden stressed. “Growing up, I never felt that I missed out on anything but instead I had all I needed to grow into a well rounded person. It was the lessons and life I lived in Conway that has taught me to go after what you want regardless of your circumstances and the lack of resources that you may or may not have had access to.”

Since graduating from Fayetteville State University in 2004, Walden has served and worked in education since that time, a career that, unbeknownst to her as a child, perhaps began when she “played school” in her bedroom with here dolls

“I was the teacher and the student,” she recalled of those carefree days. “I had to create the spelling test and then take the same test. My actual second and third grade teachers played a huge part in my love for school. Mrs. Eunice Reid and Mrs. Teresa Warren planted a seed in me early on. I am eternally grateful for those two women. I guess being “The Student Teacher” was always a part of my destiny.”

Walden currently engages with students, teachers and parents when speaking at schools, a tour she entitled “Pretty Healed & Handsomely Whole” focusing on social emotional learning, building healthy relationships, positive behavior interventions, trauma informed care and instruction, managing emotions, and making good choices.

Walden also obtained her Masters of Arts in Christian Studies focusing on Youth Ministry from Grand Canyon University in October of 2014. She uses that “pulpit” to encourage families to adopt a school and pray for them. Her goal for the 2024-2025 school year is to have 500,000 students, families, and adults covered in prayer.

As a best selling author (she has written 13 books) and spoken word artist, Walden released her first prayer single “Exalted” in February of 2022 under the direction and production of Todd Dulaney and DulaneyLand Music.

Walden offered a bit of advice that she gives while on school tours.

“Don’t rush your process because no one wants food that is not fully cooked,” she said. “You can get sick or even die from the raw ingredients. Same with people. When you skip past your process, you are not fully cooked and sometimes we ignorantly pass on fragments and broken pieces to others that produce more fragmented and broken people.”

Walden stressed that building strong relationships and connections matter.

“Get around people who have aspirations and dreams that matter to you,” Walden remarked “See yourself doing it before you see yourself in it. Your perspective matters and how you view yourself will either attract or repel the things you want.”

She encourages everyone to follow their dreams and their passions.

“It is never too late to start, but you do need to start today to make them become a reality,” Walden noted. “Never diminish where you come from or the circumstances you find yourself in today. Things can change and shift when you make a decision to do things differently and not accept what you have always known. Believe the good in others, but believe the best in you.

“I am a testament to what can happen when you do not allow setbacks or your environment to stop you but instead set you up for where you are headed,” Walden continued. “This award means so much to me because statistically I was not supposed to be here, but I have just believed a different report and it has yielded me different results.

It was from this burden that God gave me that fueled a passion in me for the system of education. It is the work I have done and continue to do around faith and education that I was even considered for such an award as this, and for that, I am grateful,” she concluded.

All booking requests for Walden to speak at schools, keynote commencement and graduation ceremonies, staff developments, organizations, and churches should be directed to simene@simenewalden.com.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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