03/01/09 — Students, counselors honored for work

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Students, counselors honored for work

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 1, 2009 2:00 AM

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Recognized during the student awards celebration by the Wayne County School Counselors Association on Friday, front row from left, Becky Sykes, counselor at Northeast Elementary School; NEE student Molly Jackson; Sean and Lance Clark, students at Brogden Primary School; Tyler Edmundson, Norwayne student; Michelle Williams, Southern Wayne High School student; and Cathy White, SW counselor. Back row, Paige Nunn, Greenwood Middle School counselor; Ashley Lewis, Greenwood student; Cheryl Stafford, Brogden Primary School counselor; Tammy Munoz, Norwayne Middle School counselor; Shaquila Rouse, Goldsboro High School student; Patricia Burden, GHS principal; and Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools.

Molly Jackson comes to school every day with a smile, ready and eager to start the day with her classmates.

The image is in stark contrast to what Molly's parents were told when she became the 217th person in the world to be diagnosed with the rare 9p minus syndrome -- that she would not likely walk or talk and would have to live in a center because of the handicap.

"Molly has proven everyone wrong," said Gail Richards, principal of Northeast Elementary School. "She was walking at 21/2 and she can talk, and we can all attest to that today."

Now 5 and a kindergarten student, Molly initially attended Edgewood Community Developmental School.

Despite all of her challenges, she has a "contagious and winning personality," Mrs. Richards said.

"She is truly loved by all the students and faculty at our school .... all who know her fall in love with her," she said.

On Friday, Molly was one of seven students recognized by Wayne County Public Schools' Counselors Association for overcoming obstacles and demonstrating outstanding courage and citizenship.

The association also named its second recipient for the Counselor of the Year, Beth Jorgensen of Eastern Wayne Middle School.

Guidance counselors at the elementary, middle and high schools nominated students for the recognition, traditionally selecting two from each level for the award.

Brogden Primary School had twin recipients this year, brothers diagnosed with autism at age 21/2.

Sean and Lance Clark came to Brogden in kindergarten after attending preschool at Edgewood.

Despite language delays and other difficulties, the boys "quickly caught up and passed many of their peers academically," said Cheryl Stafford, counselor at the school.

"They are now successful third-graders this year and made the honor roll," she said.

Ashley Lewis, a Greenwood Middle School sixth-grade student, endured many surgeries as an infant and young child, impacting his ability to attend school until this year. He has adjusted very well, said Counselor Paige Nunn.

"He's determined to succeed and has great perseverance, great courage," she said. "He has risen to succeed."

Tyler Edmundson, a Norwayne eighth-grader, also defied the odds -- his parents were also told their child would never walk or talk.

His counselor, Tammy Munoz, said she is imp-ressed by his attitude and personality.

"I have watched this young man grow from the first day he ever came on campus. He knew everybody's name," she said. "He has served as manager for the football, basketball and volleyball teams, and is well-liked by faculty and staff."

High school students recognized were Shaquila Rouse and Michelle Williams, seniors at Goldsboro and Southern Wayne, respectively. Surviving adversity, both are on track for graduation this spring.

GHS Principal Patricia Burden shared Shaquila's story.

"When she was in fifth grade, her father died of cancer," she said. Two years later, Shaquila's mother also died of cancer and she was separated from her siblings, going to live with an aunt and grandmother.

Despite the loss, she has demonstrated faith and now holds down a part-time job as she completes her high school education. She is applying to colleges and plans to major in psychology.

Michelle has been a "model student" who displays quiet leadership in class, says her counselor, Cathy White.

She also attended Edgewood School before becoming mainstreamed. Though wheelchair-bound, she has persevered when others might have given up, Ms. White said.

Maintaining a 3.3 grade-point average, she plans to go to college.

At 18, she has moved out of her parents' home into an assisted living facility. And all the while, with a positive attitude.

"She teaches everyone not to sweat the small stuff and anyone can achieve if they persevere," Ms. White said.

Counselor of the Year Mrs. Jorgensen was described by her principal, Cathy Eubanks, as being a reliable, hard-working counselor and role model and a true asset to the school.

"I have been blessed," said Mrs. Jorgensen, who has worked at the school for 11 years. "The reason I can do my job is because of the counselors out there. I don't do this alone. None of us do it alone. ... I love my job and I love my kids. I'm so thankful for the opportunity (the school system) has given me to do this."

Congratulating all the day's recipients, Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, called them all "standard bearers."

"We're always motivating our staff and our kids. This is a prime example of students who have set the standards for themselves," he said. "When you see all the adversity that these kids have had to go through and where they are, these are examples for us to follow."