02/17/06 — Students inspire staff with courage

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Students inspire staff with courage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 17, 2006 1:54 PM

A 7-year-old child struggling to acquire academic, social and self-help skills in spite of an autism disorder.

An academically gifted fifth-grader whose life was turned upside down when her mother died last year.

An eighth-grader who battled back from cancer, and two high school students whose lives could have come to a halt after they were the victims of car accidents.

These are just a few of the scenarios guidance counselors in the public schools deal with on a daily basis. They are also the five recipients of this year's awards given by the Wayne County Counselors Association recently at Walnut Creek Country Club.

The annual luncheon has come to symbolize what counselors in the school system do, said Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent of instruction. "We realize how much they support our students," she said.

Guidance counselors at the elementary, middle, and high schools nominated students for the awards in December. Each student had a story about how he or she triumphed over adversity, officials said.

Two each were chosen for the honor at the elementary and high school levels, and one middle school student was chosen.


Morris Stocks, a second-grader with an autism disorder, began his education at Edgewood Community Developmental School and attended More at Four before becoming a student at Brogden Primary School, said his counselor, Cheryl Stafford.

Currently in a kindergarten through second grade self-contained class with inclusion in a first-grade class, Morris has had difficulty with skills like eating, taking turns and anger control, Ms. Stafford said. He has shown steady progress and his academic skills have improved, she said.

"He enjoys doing science experiments, and he wants to learn to tell time and add numbers," she said, adding that he will be able to transition full-time to a regular classroom next year.

Morris, she said, attributes his success to his own self-determination and having a very loving family who never wavers in their support for him.


Lynn Sasser, a counselor at Northwest Elementary school, said some unique circumstances brought fifth-grader Sameal Young to her school at the beginning of the year.

Sameal's mother was diagnosed with lupus at age 21. Supportive family members pitched in while the illness worsened. When she died last April, at age 26, Sameal's father stepped up to the plate and brought his daughter to Wayne County to provide for her, Ms. Sasser said.

An academically gifted child, she has maintained an unblemished academic record, with an A average, her counselor said.

When Sameal was asked what she wanted to be when she grows up, Ms. Sasser said the youth's reply was, " 'I want to be a doctor so that I can invent a medicine to cure lupus.' "


Mack Beard, a counselor at Mount Olive Middle School, said a lot of words came to mind when he thought about eighth-grader Jenifer Kominsky. Among them were friendly, courageous and hard-working, but the one that stood out most was her hair, he said.

"To understand that, you have to know the rest of the story," he said.

In March 2004, she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery and chemotherapy.

"Jenifer was a girl who walked around with her head covered because she had lost her hair," he said.

Despite missing school for treatments at Duke, she kept up with her assignments and persevered, Beard said. Now, another word has been added to describe her, he said: Strong.

Staff at the school-based health center "rarely heard her complain," Beard said. "She kept smiling and kept working. Now she's not only come through it, but has come through it a better person. She's an example of a person who can come through adversity and suffering."


At age 9, Randy Odom was hit by a car while he was riding his bicycle. He has been in a wheelchair ever since. But according to Vanessa May, one of his teachers at Rosewood High School, "Randy doesn't even realize he's in a wheelchair. I never have to open my door if Randy's near me because he's going to knock you down to open it for you."

Ms. May said she has worked with Randy for three years. She said the junior makes wonderful grades and can do anything he sets his mind to do.

Not only has he accomplished a lot, said counselor John Radford, but Randy also has a great attitude.

"Words are often used to define men. Extraordinary men like Randy Odom actually redefine those words," he said before turning to Randy and adding, "It's an honor to be honoring you."


At Southern Wayne High School, junior Anna Jones could be called the personification of sunshine, said her counselor, Kerri Loury. That's only surprising if one realizes it is in stark contrast to what happened on Jan. 10, 2005.

Involved in a car accident, Anna was thrown from the car and her back hit a brick home. She was unresponsive when a passerby stopped and the man poured holy water on her and blessed her, Ms. Loury said.

Later at the hospital, friends and relatives held a prayer vigil for her. Anna remained in intensive care and was airlifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital with extensive injuries. She has gone on to have numerous surgeries and at one point, it was doubtful she would walk again.

Despite that, she kept up her honors classes, overcame setbacks and was released from the hospital last March. She attended her prom in April on crutches and required another surgery in July.

She has also developed diabetes, wears a bone stimulator at night for her leg and continues to require a lot of medications, her counselor said. But on Friday, she was freed from her boot cast, she said.

Anna has also been given the go-ahead to try out for cheerleading next year, Ms. Loury said. "She's a tremendously courageous young lady," she said. "What she's been through teaches all of us what the human spirit can accomplish. She inspires us to persevere no matter what life throws at you."