There is a saying that I love to lean on during times like the one we are in today: “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”
There are many ordinary people who are constantly doing extraordinary things, especially when it comes to youth engagement and Myra Blackwell is one person who hasn’t stopped being a vessel for the city of Harrisburg.
Blackwell has been striving to make a positive impact on Central Pennsylvania’s youth for quite some time now. In fact, one thing Blackwell stands firm on while being a vessel is making sure she is contributing to the development of the children.
As we all know the last fourteen months have been unprecedented. When COVID-19 hit America, one can definitely say COVID-19 did not have any picks because it came for everyone. Blackwell had just finished a successful college prep workshop in January 2020 and was gearing up for another educational tradition that the Scholarship Committee at Bethel AME Church started just a couple of years prior and then the world closed. This tradition that I am referring to is Youth Education Sunday.
If you are wondering what Youth Education Sunday is let me explain. On this one Sunday in June, the Scholarship Committee and the Young People’s Division where Shannon Carson is the director, recognize high school seniors who are on their way to college.
Now let’s reflect once again on the COVID-19 era.
I remember not only watching the news and hearing how COVID-19 affected the family structure on an educational level nationwide, but I am one person who was fortunate enough to see first-hand how COVID-19 affected the education system on a local level.
The pandemic not only affected how teachers taught but also affected students comprehended. Students had to either sit in front of a computer screen for seven to eight hours a day, trying to stay engaged, or they had to complete educational packets. This in itself has been a frustrating time for many students.
Now let’s focus on the high school senior who had to balance this new learning style, stay mentally sane which was hard for just about everyone no matter how young or old, and then had to secure financial aid and extra money that he or she could bank on that would help them pursue a college degree.
Yes, COVID-19 was rough in so many facets of life and I commend every student who kept it together despite the difficulties many students faced, especially at a very young age.
This year’s scholarship recipient is far from a stranger when it comes to adversity. Malachi Harvey is a graduate of East Pennsboro High School and Blackwell describes Malachi Harvey to be a student who exceeds expectations and is a young person who doesn’t let fear get in his way.
In fact, Malachi Harvey has been overcoming obstacles his entire life, being in the foster care system before being adopted by his great aunt and uncle. Another inspirational aspect about Malachi’s journey would have to be how he encouraged his three siblings to receive honors while he also received honors. See, again ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Community is also extremely important and is a key part of Youth Educational Sunday. Although the state of Pennsylvania has started doing traditional engagements such as normal gatherings, Blackwell and her committee understood why playing it safe and hosting this event virtually was important.
Just like the doors being open for anyone willing to hear the good word being preached by the Rev. Ouemonde Bragman at Bethel AME Church, anyone who is willing to celebrate students from the Class of 2021 can also be in attendance, via Zoom, Facebook Live, or by telephone.
A young and dynamic pastor by the name of Jayson Davenport will not only be the guest speaker for this event but Davenport will also share his testimony and maybe even share a few gems about how he made it through as an undergrad at Lincoln University.
Blackwell and the Scholarship Committee understand the importance of past recipients also being a part of this celebration. 2016 scholarship recipient, Lance Sharpe will also share words of encouragement, being a Hampton University graduate who has been fortunate enough to sustain employment post-graduation.
This event will be held this Sunday, June 13, and will start at 10:00 am. I am excited for all of the seniors who participated in this process and I am also happy for Malachi Harvey. Congratulations and remember the best is yet to come.
Opinion contributor Anwar Curtis, of Harrisburg, tells the stories of the people of Pennsylvania’s capital city. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ACTheMayor.