Champions for Children honored

The Down East Partnership for Children (DEPC) recognized eight outstanding citizens from Nash and Edgecombe Counties last week at its Champions for Children Reception.

DEPC Board Member Alice Thorp opened the ceremony welcoming guests to the celebration, "This celebration is our way to thank you for the role you play," she said, "We are making a difference because of our champions."

Community leaders, educators, and volunteers also welcomed N.C. Partnership for Children President Karen Ponder, who retired Wednesday, as guest speaker for the event. She stressed the importance of early childhood education saying that every child should be able enter school with a firm foundation.

Cedar Grove Elementary School Principal Jerry Smith was one of three recipients of the Exellence in Early Childhood Education Award.

Smith has served on the N.C. Ready School Task Force. He has worked with DEPC and its partnering agencies to establish a Family Resource Center and a Pre-K state of the art playground at Cedar Grove. He also volunteers in the St. John A.M.E. Zion Church Community and is a mentor/Big Brother for several young people. He also transports meals to elderly persons in need of assistance.

The N.C. Wesleyan College graduate started his career teaching sixth graders. He has received several awards as an outstanding teacher of mathematics and has completed studies in the North Carolina Principal Fellows Program.

Ella Batts, Executive Director of Elementary Education, Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, was quoted on the poster display at the reception noting Smith's accomplishments. "We are so pleased to have Mr. Smith as one of our principals; he is a wonderful person, a hard worker who keeps the children at the heart of everything he does. He is fair and easygoing and always takes a stand to do what is right for the children," said Batts.

Faye Taylor, Principal at G.W. Bulluck Elementary School in Edgecombe County also received the Excellence in Early Childhood Education Award. She has partnered with DEPC and area agencies, serves on the Edgecombe County Hospice Foundation Board and the Wesleyan College Teacher Advisory Board. She is active in Edgecombe Ruritanettes, the Principals and Assistant Principals Association and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. She has been honored as Principal of the Year by Edgecombe County Public Schools and is a member of Parkwood Baptist Church. She and her husband, Robert, have four children, Heidi, Mitzi, Deidre, and Matthew. They also have five grandchildren.

The third recipient of the Excellence in Early Childhood Education Award was Linda Knight, Director and co-owner of Think and Grow Child Care Centers, Inc. She serves on the DEPC Board of Directors and is a childcare provider for More at Four, Time Off for Parents (TOP) and the Child Care Scholarship Program. Working with agencies such as Edgecombe Community College, the Community Enrichment Organization, Edgecombe County Health Department and Social Services, she has promoted quality child care in her community.

She is president of the Edgecombe Entrepreneur Organization and was honored by the Tarboro Chamber of Commerce in 1997 as an outstanding businesswoman. She is a member of Mildred Baptist Church. She and her husband, Frank, have two daughters, Lisa and Shanell, and three grandchildren.

Belinda Landis was honored receiving the Deborah Benbow Community Leadership Award. She has participated in many community campaigns to provide valuable resources and services for area children and their families. She is co-chair of the DEPC Raise the Roof Campaign, a member of the Board of Directors at the Rocky Mount YMCA, and has strongly supported Communities in Schools in her work with the NC Education Ball Steering Committee and the CIS Scholarship Fund. She has also raised funds for Friends With Heart, NC Wesleyan College, the Dunn Center, the Tar River Orchestra and Chorus League, the Rocky Mount Junior Guild and Braswell Memorial Library. She is a member of the Church of the Good Shepherd. She and her husband, Kel, have two children, Dorsey and H.K.

Partha Daughtridge was also honored receiving the Deborah Benbow Community Leadership Award. She is a co-chair of the DEPC Raise the Roof Campaign, and has chaired major fundraising events for the YMCA, Rocky Mount Academy, and the Rocky Mount Junior Guild. She has participated in fundraising for the Boy Scouts of America, Friends with Heart, Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce, the Tar River Orchestra and Chorus League. She serves on the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Board and the State Art Society Board for the NC Museum of Art. She is a member of First Presbyterian Church. She and her husband, Bill, have two children, Gray and Meredith.

This award was named in honor of Deborah Benbow who was Programs Manager with Community Enrichment Organization and a participant in DEPC's Community Fellows Program. The award was established to honor her legacy of caring service to children and families.

RBC Centura was recognized with the Frances Harrison Long-Term Commitment to Change Award.

This award is named for former mathematics professor, Frances Harrison. She retired from NC Wesleyan College in 1995. She has served on the Nash-Rocky Mount School Board and currently volunteers with Communities in Schools. She is a graduate of the Community Fellows Program and serves on the DEPC Board of Directors. She is a member of the Rocky Mount First Baptist Church. She and her husband, Charlie, have one son, Charles, and two grandchildren.

RBC has partnered with DEPC providing important programs and services for young children. The company's focus on education includes dropout prevention, youth services, leadership and career development, and teacher appreciation.

During the award presentation, Henrietta Zalkind, Executive Director of DEPC, announced RBC Centura's newest gift to the ready school fund. The company donated $25,000 to the N.C. Partnership to launch a statewide ready school campaign which will help in two areas, Nash and Edgecombe Counties and Region A.
"They have been wonderful partners in investing in early childhood education," said Zalkind, "This is a long-term economic investment. We are proud to have them as a partner on a continuing basis."

RBC's donation will help aid current efforts from the Kellogg Grant.

"We're hoping their gift leads to other businesses to invest in school improvement in early grades," said Zalkind.