Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the Black History Month student contest winners and Excellence in Education Award recipients. This year’s theme was “Celebrating Untold Stories and Contributions of African Americans in Florida” and the winners were honored during the Black History Month awards ceremony at the Florida Governor’s Mansion. Black History Month is celebrated every year in Florida during the month of February.
“The Governor and I are honored to host this celebration of our talented students, outstanding teachers and the tremendous contributions of African Americans to Florida’s rich history and heritage,” said First Lady DeSantis. “It is also a privilege to highlight the artwork of Daniel Wynn, a highly accomplished artist, designer and international exhibitor who encourages minority artists, particularly children and teenagers, to share their talent and inspiration through art.”
“Thank you to Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis for hosting the 2020 Black History Month celebration, and congratulations to this year’s student essay and educator contests winners,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “I commend these students and educators for going above and beyond to recognize the countless African-Americans who have and continue to contribute greatly to our state and nation. Education is freedom, and the department is committed to continuing to work every day to ensure every student, no matter their age or demographic has the opportunity to choose their education.”
“The lasting impact by Black Floridians on our state’s history, culture and art are an integral part of who we are today,” said Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee. “During Black History Month, we reflect and honor the contributions of this community of strong, resilient individuals who have enriched and continue to enhance the lives of Floridians, for which we are grateful.”
“Volunteer Florida was proud to join Governor DeSantis and the First Lady to celebrate Black History Month,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Clay Ingram. “While we honored African Americans of the past, we also recognized the students and educators who share these individuals’ stories and carry on a legacy of greatness. They hold so much promise for Florida’s future.”
“Thank you to Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis for hosting tonight’s special event,” said Enterprise Florida President & CEO Jamal Sowell. “February’s Black History Month gives us an opportunity to showcase the contributions of African-Americans both nationally and right here in Florida who have impacted our state for the better.”
Award recipients are as follows:
The following student essay contest winners – one elementary, one middle and one high school student – earned a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.
Student Essay Contest Winners
Aidan Patel, Cypress Woods Elementary School, Pinellas County
Aidan wrote about Mary McLeod Bethune, an American educator, stateswoman and civil rights activist who founded what is now Bethune-Cookman University.
Jaylen McCall, Liberty Middle School, Hillsborough County
Jaylen wrote about John Horse, a man who rose out of slavery and became the Chief of the Black Seminoles during the Second Seminole War, also known as the Florida War.
Amarachi Ujagbor, Pembroke Pines Charter High School, Broward County
Amarachi wrote about Dr. Charles Drew, an African American physician and surgeon who pioneered methods of storing blood plasma and organized the first blood bank for the U.S. military.
Student Art Contest Winners
Kristian Stinson, Watergrass Elementary, Pasco County
Kristian is a first grader who drew a picture titled “Eartha Mary White – Community Angel” depicting Eartha Mary Magdalene White, a public servant, philanthropist, educator and businesswoman from Jacksonville.
Kana Reynolds, Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary West, Broward County
Kana is a third grader who drew a picture titled “Dr. James Sistrunk Delivers Florida’s Future.” Dr. Sistrunk is credited with delivering over 5,000 babies during his 44 years of practice in Broward County.
First Lady Casey DeSantis also honored three outstanding educators with Excellence in Education Awards. The recipients were nominated by students and peers.
Excellence in Education Award Winners
Ataaba Patterson, Vero Beach Elementary, Indian River County
Ataaba teaches third grade at Vero Beach Elementary, a Title One school in Indian River County. As the school’s multi-cultural coordinator, she serves as an advocate for her students and teaches them to celebrate diversity. In the classroom, Ataaba is also a dedicated educator who has helped the school climb two letter grades. She was recently named one of Florida’s high-impact teachers and has some of the highest student improvement scores to back it up.
Jennifer Shea, Lake Asbury Junior High School, Lake County
Jennifer teaches language arts and speech at Lake Asbury Junior High School in Lake County. She is described as a passionate educator who isn’t afraid to come in early or stay late if it means she can help a student in need. As the speech and debate coach, Jennifer also helps her students with their public speaking and overall confidence.
Roberto Fernandez III, Plantation High School, Broward County
Roberto is an Army veteran who has been serving as an educator in Broward County schools for the past 15 years. As a social studies teacher at Plantation High School, he encourages his students to become critical thinkers and engaged citizens. Outside of the classroom, Roberto is a passionate community advocate who has engaged hundreds of students to participate in historic preservation projects at Woodlawn Cemetery, Fort Lauderdale’s historic African American cemetery.
To learn more about Black History Month, visit www.FloridaBlackHistory.com.