Let's skip the issues this week and probe the Madison school board candidates on their community involvement and their advice for students moving up to high school. We've asked them to describe their most fulfilling volunteer experiences, as well as what they would say to a graduating class of eighth graders.
Here are the responses from the two candidates for Seat 4, Johnny Winston, Jr.
As a school board member, I am frequently asked to speak to middle school students. The substance of my message has been and always will be the importance of education. The substance of my graduation message would be threefold:
- Emphasis on the link between education and reaching one's life goals;
- The importance of supportive and positive friends in realizing those goals; and,
- The necessity of finding their passions and having dreams.
With this age group, a speaker must be interactive and engage the students. I usually bring students in front of their peers, or ask them to raise their hands and talk about what they want to be when they grow up, and their role models. I also share my own educational goals and how I achieved them through being a firefighter for the city of Madison. It is vital that students "see" what they want to "achieve." So I often have a student try on my firefighter gear. Students really enjoy this. The student who is chosen receives a self-esteem boost by receiving applause and the admiration of their friends.
Finally, sometimes I perform a rap song to better relate to students. My positive "rap" is about unity and keeping their dreams alive. Students and staff will clap their hands to make the beat and dance. This is a good way to end the speech on a positive note that is interactive without being preachy to students while sending a message about the value of education.
You are about to embark on a great journey as you enter high school.
You will have many different opportunities to learn about many subjects, and you also will develop new friends. You also will be faced with many different and sometimes difficult choices in high school. Remember that with each action, good or bad, there are also consequences for that action.
As you become a young adult you now have to take responsibility for what you do. Make the most of your time in high school to help it prepare you for the rest of your life, and also have fun.
What civic, educational or religious involvement has given you the most satisfaction as a volunteer?
Johnny Winston, Jr.
I'm involved in many community programs that give me personal satisfaction and assist in the betterment of the Madison community, including serving on the Madison school board.
First, as a current member of the 100 Black Men of Madison and a past member of its board of directors, I am involved in developing and promoting programs and activities focused on academic achievement and self-esteem of youth, economic development, and health and wellness. The organization is well known for its mentoring program with Big Brothers Big Sisters and its annual Back to School Picnic, which gives over 2,000 free backpacks filled with school supplies to disadvantaged students.
Second, I'm proud to be a member of the Sable Flames, the association for African-American firefighters of Madison. This organization hosts an annual benefit dance that raises scholarship money for single parents and students of single parents who want to improve their lives through pursuit of higher education. As former president of the Sable Flames, I have been directly able to promote higher education opportunities for disadvantaged students.Lastly, education and community development are important aspects of the annual Streetball and Block Party event at Penn Park. As founder of this event now in its seventh year, I am involved in outreach that is vitally important in building a collective identity and sense of pride for Madison residents. All proceeds are given directly to local charitable programs that benefit the community and support education such as the Boys and Girls Club, Urban League and WCATY.
My involvement with the Red Cross apheresis donation program over the last 30 years has been the most rewarding, as I know that I am helping someone who is sick and needs the platelets to help them get well. To me, it is giving three hours a week sitting at the Red Cross letting them draw platelets to help someone else live a better life.