MOREHEAD CITY — More than 200 residents celebrated the accomplishments of county African-American students during the 22nd annual Black History Celebration Monday in the Crystal Coast Civic Center.

After hearing an inspirational speech, top students received certificates of achievement. The college recognized public school students at the eighth and 12th grade levels and Carteret Community College students who have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average.

Guest speaker Elvin James, a former East Carteret High School graduate who had a successful career coaching and teaching until his recent retirement from Goldsboro High School, congratulated students on their success and encouraged them to continue on the right road.

“We are here to pay tribute to our shining stars and pay respect to our ancestry. It’s because of their sacrifice that we enjoy the fruits of their labor,” Mr. James said. “I say to these shining stars, follow your dreams.”

He pointed out that he, as well as the students, didn’t become successful without the help of others. Mr. James said he overcame many obstacles growing up to complete college and enter the teaching and coaching profession.

He thanked his many former teachers, coaches and others in the community that encouraged him to persevere through the difficult times. He especially thanked former East Carteret High School teacher and coach Chuck Lewis, who attended the program Monday.

“He was like a father to me,” Mr. James said. “I don’t know what he saw in me, but he and his wife went way out of their way to help me.”

In honor of Mr. Lewis and those who help others struggling along the way, Mr. James played a recording of two old, but popular songs, “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Lean on Me.”

There were several tears shed as the songs were played, especially by Mr. Lewis, who retired several years ago as a principal in the county school system.

Following the ceremony, he and Mr. James spent a long time sharing.

Mr. Lewis said his former student was always a hard worker and very respectful.

“There was a great group of guys at East Carteret that I coached,” Mr. Lewis said.

Mr. James said he still stays in touch with Mr. Lewis and always will.

“I am who I am today because of him,” Mr. James said.

During his speech, Mr. James gave students several pieces of advice, including keeping their grades up and being careful who they allow into their circle of close friends.

“Character and how you present yourselves is very important,” Mr. James said.

One of the most important tips he gave students was to keep persevering through life’s tough times and look to faith in God during hardship.

“I would write out scriptures (from the Bible) and post them where I could see them. I used them as my motivation,” he said.

Mr. James further encouraged students to keep a positive attitude.

“Your attitude will determine your altitude,” he said. “The one who wins is the one who thinks he can. I started behind in the race, but I finished strong. If I could do it, I’m telling you that you can do it.”

Following the ceremony, Beaufort Middle School eighth-grader Bryana Hyman said, “I thought his speech was very inspiring. The message I got was that if you have struggles you can still reach your goals.”

Croatan High School junior Alena Bradley, who is also dual enrolled for classes at Carteret Community College, agreed.

“It was very inspirational. What I will remember is that it takes a village and you need someone to lean on in difficult times,” Alena said.

CCC esthetics student Lauren Hunter of New Bern said, “His speech was very blessed and motivational.”

CCC President Dr. John Hauser and other college officials also gave brief remarks. Dr. Hauser congratulated students on their accomplishments.

“This is the 22nd year the college has offered the Black History program, but this is about much more than that. It’s about the success of students,” he said.

The following students were honored for their academic accomplishments:

•    Beaufort Middle School: Donovan Carter, Alexander Doans, Dajhaneik Frazier, Marco Funicello, Bryana Hyman, Saviyon Johnson, Lance Locklear, Alyssa Murray, Kaliah Reed, Jamaya Shelton, Terrell Taylor and Christian Thomas-Smith.

•    Croatan High School: Brooklynn Greer and Alena Bradley.

•    Newport Middle School: Robert Coleman IV, Mya Collins, Aijanaye Gethers, Tyler Hamilton, Taylor Hargett, Alisa Harris, Megan Kenon, Carlita Long, Isaac McPherson, Cameron Pritchett, Faith Utley and Jean Utley.

•    Morehead City Middle School: Ja’Naya George, Xavier Jones and Jaysa Raynor.

•    East Carteret High School: Tierra Benders, Nat’Li Deshane, Alexis Dunkle, Charity Fisher, Geordan Livingston, Breah Taylor and Israel Willis.

•    West Carteret High School: Jason Anderson, Aundi Bostic, Naijh Hester, DaShawn Jones, Makyiah Mitchell, Brianna Tootle and Keyonnea Trammel.

•    Carteret Community College: Devin Alteus, Clarissa Baker, Tierra Benders, Mercedes Berry, Aundie Bostic, Alena Bradley, Jerrmie Broadhurst, Keyshawn Bryant, Megan Buchanan, Carmen Carter, Brandon Chiacchia, Nykia Cypress, Jakoyah Davis, Shirlena Davis, Samantha Disotell, Fantasia Edwards, Elizabeth Epperly, Samantha Evans, Johnnie Everette, Joy Fisher, Savasia Frazier, Roberta Gelin-Desrivieres, L’Taijiah George, Nyshyel Godette, Damien Guthrie, Joshua Hall, Roxanne Hester, Toielle Hobson, Lauren Hunter, La’tecyia Johnson, Brittney Jones, Arianna Leoso, Ledonna Lopez, Anoucheka Milord, Deasia Mollie, Gabriella Montford, Jasmine Moore, Gary Moran, Agatha Morris, Crystal Morrisey, Sasha Muniz, Shereitta Myrick, Victoria Neal, Alexis Pritchett, Jowanna Rogers, Nacoltra Scott, Ashley Sewell, Raegine Sutton, Diana Tootle, Adrianna Utley, Aiveen Walker, Corine Walker, Victoria Washington, Maryiah West, Jerome Williams, Lavinia Williams, Aleyah Wilson, Aneyah Wilson and Nyquan Wilson.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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