The first scholarship awardees of the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Scholars Program are Calvert High School graduates Wilbur Robinson (left) and Desmond Creek (right).  Also, pictured, in the center, is Colonel (retired) Will Wiggins.

Prince Frederick, MD – On June 4 a newly established, grassroots-inspired effort called the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Scholars Program, reached a major milestone in awarding its first-ever scholarships, at this year’s Calvert Local Scholarship Application Celebration, at the Prince Frederick Campus of the College of Southern Maryland. During the annual celebration, two local students, Calvert High graduates, Desmond Creek (2017) and Wilbur Robinson (2016) received funding to further their education and help launch the first-year pilot effort.

“We know there are fewer role models in our classrooms for students of color, as greater segments of the community are increasingly being underrepresented on our school staff,” according to Elder Henderson Benjamin, Calvert County Baptist Church and a coordinator for the new program.  “We see this effort as an expanding opportunity for our middle schoolers to be mentored into becoming our next generation of community leaders,” he added.

Community, in every aspect of the word, has been the centerpiece in this evolving program, beginning with the 2017 Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Board of Education recommendation to the Board.  In August 2017, the CAC had just completed a two-year study into the some of the reasons for the continued decline of staff diversity in our local schools.  According to current CAC chairperson, J.C. Hooker, “the CAC has always taken on tough issues such as the problems of minority retention and recruitment, and that’s why this student-to-teacher pipeline recommendation rose to the top.  It’s our job to give the Board not only a community research tool, but to provide thoughtful recommendations on the assigned topic that we studied during the school year.”

After months of community collaboration and planning, the recommended student-to-teacher pipeline began to take shape.  And, it reached another program milestone, as coordinators traveled to Winthrop College, SC, on June 25, to take two days of exclusive educational training in a curriculum designed specifically for the program’s future middle school scholars.  The pipeline, which has now simply become known as the ‘HEB,’ debuts in the fall with a full complement of tools to advance learning in education, leadership, business, and technology & science.

Reflecting on these accomplishments and HEB making its first scholarship awards, Margaret Dunkle, Chair of the Task Force to Study the Commemoration of Harriet Elizabeth Brown, and former Chair, Commission for Women, Calvert County applauded the effort: “keep up your great work!  The HEB (award) was lovely.”
Another congratulatory note came from Diane Davies, chair for “The Big Conversation,” a community dialogue and exchange on tough topics that folks usually avoid, such as race relations. Davies, a member at Lusby’s Middleham & Saint Peter’s Parish, noted: “we need more positive efforts like the HEB to help correct problems of racial imbalance.” The Big Conversation Partners for Dismantling Racism and Privilege (BCDRaP) and HEB recently became mutual partners to support each other’s efforts in advancing diversity and dismantling racism.  And, as a “Friend of the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Scholars Program,” the Big Conversation joins a number of community associations, businesses, and individuals supporting the HEB.

While the HEB has received considerable input and encouragement from the across the community, a core group has been most impactful in building the HEB. That list includes educational professionals, both at the college and high school levels, who have helped craft the HEB vision and mission statements.  For its mentoring needs, the Calvert County Mentoring Partnership has provided the full complement of its resources. Calvert County Baptist Church gave it a home by generously offering space.  Tau Lambda Lambda, the Local Chapter of the Omega Phi Psi Fraternity, agreed to handle all the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities.  Concerned Black Women offered seasoned guidance and direction.  And, Remnant Center of Excellence is handling much of the administrative scheduling and graphics.  Any of these team members can be contacted for more information on the HEB.

“Building the HEB reflects the legacy of its namesake’s (Harriet Elizabeth Brown), who was fearless in trying to correct what she believed was a wrong and her continued fight to see change happen,” Dunkle added.  According to Remnant’s, Will Wiggins, “The 15-year erosion of diversity in our schools is a concern on many levels, as each day there are few to no role models in our classrooms for a significant number of students (nearly 30 percent).  And that negatively impacts every students’ academic achievement.

A recent John Hopkins’ research report revealed that just one black instructor (in grades 3 to 5) can have an enormously positive impact on minority students.  After studying 100,000 students over 12 years and in two separate states (Tennessee and North Carolina), Hopkins concluded that having a black instructor in those early grades markedly lifted students’ academic trajectory.  All low-income students benefitted and African American males in that group had the greatest improvement, elevating their trajectory to finish high school by nearly 30 percent. That is a metric we can not only use in Calvert, but all-across America.  And, while the HEB has achieved significant milestones, we must be compelled to have our schools reflect the community in which they exist, so all students benefit from having classroom role models.” 

For additional information http://mailto:Rce@remnant.teamcontact Colonel Will Wiggins, U.S, Army Retired, CEO, Remnant Center of Excellence, Inc. at Rce@remnant.team