Local ministers urge students to work hard in school

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Local ministers urge students to work hard in school


Education--K-12--Central High School, Social Services, Religion--New Hope Chuch of God, Religion--Salem Baptist Church, Religion--Free Will Baptist Church


CHAMPAIGN – The Rev. Charles Nash was standing at a table full of boys in the Central High School cafeteria Monday, struggling to be heard over the din.

Nash talked about college, what the students need to focus on in high school, and what happens to those who don't take education seriously. The boys laughed and joked with each other. But they listened too.

"They were a little goofy at times, but they were listening to what he had to say," freshman David Quarles, one of those at the table, said of his classmates.

Nash, of the New Hope Church of God in Christ, was one of several local ministers who were visiting Champaign high schools Monday to kick off "Operation Graduation," an effort to get community members more involved in the school district and encourage students to stay in school and work hard at their education.

The plan calls for the ministers to visit the high schools twice a month and talk with students. They'll also put messages in their church bulletins and talk with their congregations about topics such as being a good role model, helping children learn from everyday experiences, helping with homework, talking with teachers and encouraging children to ask for help when they need it.

Robin McClain, the district's attendance improvement coordinator, said the district is also working with social service agencies to get information into the schools about the services available for families, and it will be working with the business community next to get more people involved in the schools.

"I think it's invaluable for kids to see the community has an expectation for them to do well in school," said Central Principal Bill Freyman.

Nash was not put off by the rowdiness in the cafeteria on Monday.

"They are basically good kids. Their behavior a lot of times is a front," he said.

Several students said they appreciated the ministers taking an interest.

"I'm glad they're letting everybody know they care about young black kids trying to do better in their lives," said David, who shook hands with Nash before heading off to class.

"It was kind of cool for them to come here and give us advice on life," added sophomore Denzel Stewart. "I hear that stuff every day from my mom, but this was the first time hearing it from someone other than my mom."

The Rev. Zernial Bogan of Salem Baptist Church talked with a group of upperclassmen, asking how they felt about lunch, the police officer assigned to the school and their overall interactions in high school. He wanted to get the students' points of view.

"To hear from them on a one-on-one level gives a broader picture of what's going on," Bogan said.

The Rev. Evelyn Underwood of the New Free Will Baptist Church knows the families and pastors of many Central students. She was using that to make connections with students. Several girls who know her came up and hugged her, including senior Diamond Sturkey.

"I think it's very necessary," Diamond said of having the ministers visit the school. She said their presence may help calm things down and reduce conflicts. Students "still have some type of respect for people coming in and trying to change things," she said.


Jodi Heckel




January 29, 2008



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Jodi Heckel, "Local ministers urge students to work hard in school," in eBlack Champaign-Urbana, Item #114, http://www.eblackcu.net/portal/items/show/114 (accessed October 28, 2020).

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