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Inspiring educational success at Black History Month celebration

Guest speaker Royshel A. Richardson, Maryland Public Schools educator, shared lessons learned from his experiences as an educator and a pastor during the 2017 Black History Month Luncheon at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey Feb. 16. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Guest speaker Royshel A. Richardson, Maryland Public Schools educator, shared lessons learned from his experiences as an educator and a pastor during the 2017 Black History Month Luncheon at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey Feb. 16. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Feb 23, 2017

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The Lakehurst African American Pipeline Advisory Team and EEO/Diversity Office hosted their annual Black History Month Luncheon at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey Feb. 16. (U.S. Navy Photo)

The Lakehurst African American Pipeline Advisory Team and EEO/Diversity Office hosted their annual Black History Month Luncheon at Joint Base McGuire- ...

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – More than 100 personnel from across Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst came together to discuss inspiring educational success in the local community in honor of Black History Month Feb. 16.

The 2017 Black History Month Luncheon, hosted by the NAWCAD Lakehurst African-American Pipelines Advisory Team, or APAT, and Equal Employment Opportunity/Diversity Office, featured guest speakers and displays that supported the importance of education for minority communities.

Guest speaker Royshel A. Richardson, Maryland Public Schools educator, shared facts and lessons learned from his experiences as an educator and a pastor.

“As I matriculated through my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education, I was continuously confronted with statistics regarding the underachievement of African American students in education,” said Richardson. “We had the lowest test scores, the most suspensions, the most often retained, the lowest SAT scores, the highest drop-out rate, underrepresented in advanced placement classes, and most referrals to special education and so on. Now think about the perception that such statistics put in the mind of young college adults aspiring to be teachers.”

“When we look back at our history, we have never been a people who sat idly by, during the time of crisis. We rose to the occasion and created solutions to our crisis,” he said.

Richardson shared ways the audience can help encourage positive educational outcomes for their children and students in their community to include getting involved, setting a positive example and encouraging them to seek high-paying careers in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM.

“Set clear expectations regarding the importance of education and by all means do not deter from the expectations,” said Richardson.

The luncheon also included displays about Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the positive educational experiences of three NAWCAD Lakehurst employees who are alumni of such schools.

“I hope that they [the audience] learned something about Black History Month and learned about our historically black colleges and universities, and that education is the key to success,” said Wanda Staton-Riggins, the Lakehurst APAT site lead.

APAT recently entered into a partnership with Lakewood Middle School, a predominantly African American and Hispanic school district, to do their part in inspiring interest in STEM fields in the local community, said Staton-Riggins.

One of their first projects with the school was an essay contest, in which students were asked to write about who has had the biggest impact on their education. More than 80 essays were submitted to APAT and scored by the team members using a rubric. The students who wrote the top four essays were recognized and presented awards at the luncheon.

“You can do anything you want as long as you believe in yourself, have goals and just persevere,” said Staton-Riggins. “I think it’s important for them to understand and realize this.  I believe that our youth need to see role models or people who look like them, who have paved the way and have gone to college, have been where they have been and faced some of the challenges that our youth are facing today, and have excelled despite their circumstances. It’s kind of near and dear to my heart, as well as to my team members.”

Members of APAT are working with the Lakewood Middle School administration and teachers to determine how they can best support the school, whether it is helping with homework or holding sessions on STEM careers and opportunities, said Staton-Riggins.

“I think it’s important that we partner with these students and we show them that they can do it,” said Staton-Riggins. “But we have to spark their interest early, and the middle school is a great age to get their interest and teach them about engineering and math and science, and what we do here at Lakehurst.”

“I think from what we’ve heard today, I certainly hope, especially for the young students that were here that you found this as inspirational as I did, and I hope you’ll heed some of the words and lessons that were shared today and try to make science and technology a part of your future educational success,” said Chris Reymann, Lakehurst APAT executive champion during the luncheon’s closing remarks. “My congratulations and heartfelt thanks to the APAT team members that made this possible.”

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Students from Lakewood Middle School were recognized for writing the top four essays submitted in an essay contest hosted by the Lakehurst APAT team during the 2017 Black History Month Luncheon at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey Feb. 16. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Students from Lakewood Middle School were recognized for writing the top four essays submitted in an essay contest hosted by the Lakehurst APAT team d ...

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3 Comments, Please review our Feedback Guidelines.


Shurman said

Excellent event. Wanda and her APAT Team members continue to succeed. Our children deserve our very best so they can be their very best when it's their turn to lead our communities and our great nation. Bishop Richardson raised several good points and I believe sparked some interest. Our HBCUs continue to be vital to African-American youths' success and need to be highlighted when possible.


February 24, 2017 at 5:23:49 AM EST

Chris Reymann said

Great article Allison. I can't say enough good things about our local event. Our APAT team is the best!


February 23, 2017 at 2:23:51 PM EST

Kathleen Donnelly said

another successful event - well done!


February 23, 2017 at 12:43:29 PM EST


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