The middle and high school uplifted students last week with special guest speakers at a pair of Black History Month assemblies.
At Kent County High School on Wednesday, Feb. 22 students gathered in Trojan Arena to hear from a full slate of motivational speakers, among them celebrities and alumniYvng Swag and Juante Wilson.
Swag, né Tyshawn Johnson, and fellow alum Juante Wilson spoke to students about dreaming big and working hard.
Wilson is an actor with credits including the television series “Law & Order” and the 2019 Chadwick Boseman movie “21 Bridges.”
“You have to figure out what your path is, stick to it and never give up,” Swag, a dancer, singer and actor, told students.
A nephew of Kent County High School teacher Michelle Phillips, guest speaker Ronnell Page talked about how his childhood was split between rural Colemans Corner here and urban Wilmington, Del.
Page discussed the importance of entrepreneurialism and the significance of people who were once forced to labor for others being free to launch their own ventures.
“So that sense of being free or being an entrepreneur and having multiple businesses and multiple income streams is something that is deeply rooted in the African American culture,” he said.
Charles Harmon, a motivational speaker who spent 23 of his 48 years in prison, discussed the importance of finding a purpose and pursuing that.
He offered a harrowing look at his childhood growing up poor in Philadelphia and how through his time in prison he found a higher purpose in life that today includes writing and motivational speaking.
Paul Tue of Minary’s Dream Alliance and Tilise Brown, the high school’s counseling secretary, led students through a Black History Month trivia contest, with questions focused around the Civil Rights movement.
Tue reminded the high school students that though they may be young, they can begin to make history now.
“You can trailblaze now. You can be a trendsetter now,” he said.
Swag and Wilson were both back at Kent County Middle School Friday, Feb. 24 for an assembly.
The assembly was organized by the school’s Achieving Academic Equity and Excellence for Black Boys (AAEEBB) mentoring program.
Tyray Johnson, the coordinator of the AAEEBB program, is Swag’s father.
Johnson opened the assembly by talking about how students need to work hard, make sacrifices and maintain their dedication to achieving their dreams.
“You have to keep pressing on. You have to keep moving forward,” he said. “And most importantly of all you have to believe in yourself.”
Swag and Wilson sat down with middle school teacher Desmond Hasty for individual interviews and discussions about their lives and their work.
With multiple movies premiering this year on streaming platforms, Wilson spoke about how he prepares for roles and the need to stay focused.
“If you can dream it, you can achieve it,” he said.
When one student asked if Wilson thought the student had what it takes to make it, Wilson turned the question back on the student.
Wilson told the student it was more important that the student himself thought he could make it.
“If you want to be an actor, if you want to be singer, dream big and work hard,” Wilson said, circling back to similar comments he told high school students two days before.
Swag spoke about how he was shy when he was younger, but it was at Kent County Middle School where he started to open up with the encouragement of students and staff.
“Middle school really was the start. This was the foundation of what started the dancing for me,” he said.
Swag talked about building and maintaining confidence and a strong positive mindset, and being able to block out negativity from others.
“It takes confidence to do anything you want to do,” Swag said.”You have to be confident in order to do anything, to do whatever, you know — become a policeman, a teacher, anything. You have to be confident in what you want to achieve.”