Sunday, June 7, 2020

Project ENRICH Overcomes Numerous Obstacles and Challenges to Finish the Year on a Strong Note

 A very familiar sight during 2020 - a Zoom gallery screen

Bro. Willie Hines on video
It could very well have ended up being a bad year for Gamma Pi Chapter's Project ENRICH program. In fact, it could easily have been written off as a lost year, what with the global pandemic, the 40 million Americans on the unemployment rolls and more recently the coast-to-cost protests over police brutality, all taking place just since March. But for Project ENRICH, the challenging 2019-2020 year will go down as anything but "lost." This may have been the program's best in its 40-plus year history. Project ENRICH survived a multitude of unforeseen hurdles to complete the year.

The success of the 2019-2020 version of Project ENRICH was evident in the closing program held today in the same virtual venues where the rest of the world is meeting these days due to the pandemic  -- in a ZOOM video-conference. The venue may have been virtual but the success of Project ENRICH was -- and is -- real. Students, parents, family, Gamma Pi Chapter leadership and members all joined to salute the students who participated in the year-end program. Project ENRICH is normally held Saturdays once monthly in-person on the Bowie State University campus.

Emcee Bro. Tony Kelly
The students were the real stars of the closing program. From freshmen and sophomores talking about what they were getting from the program to juniors talking about "stepping up" to seniors looking ahead to college after four solid years of Project ENRICH, the student experiences was quite encouraging.

Several students were recognized for as essay contest winners from April: Jana Tengen (freshmen), Jada Smith (sophomores), Kennedy Cheeks (juniors) and Munyang Tengen (seniors.). Each receives $500. Munyang was also named Outstanding Senior and receives $1,000 for that honor.


Words of Wisdom
"You are the next leaders we are aspiring leaders to, here in our country," said Bro. William Reese, who as Assistant Director is one half of the husband-wife team helping director Bro. Willie Hines run the program. This is Bro. Reese's first year with Project ENRICH.  He also developed a new program for Project ENRICH's young men, called MSPU: Manhood-Scholarship-Perseverance-Uplift. The centerpiece of this effort was monthly candid conversations led by him and other Brothers about real life and manhood.

Basileus Steven Walls
Gamma Pi Basileus Steven Walls  was also among those who addressed the group early in the program, saying "If each of us were to write down  a definition of  successful Project ENRICH participant and graduate, the most common themes would be dedication, perseverance, integrity, conscientiousness, dependability and hard work. The one that should get top billing to me is winners - you are all winners."

At the end of the program, Project ENRICH director Bro. Willie Hines looked back on a difficult but productive year. "Our Project ENRICH 2019-20 year culminated with a closing program that was a moment that captured Project ENRICH’s past, in our alumni; present, through our graduating seniors; and the future, thanks to our returning students next year. Our closing program highlighted the leadership, innovation and persistence of Project ENRICH staff. Despite the pandemic and political-social unrest, our students persevered and demonstrated the standards that exemplify Project ENRICH.".

Reflections from Staff and Others
Project ENRICH's other staff, the team leads, used the opportunity to highlight their groups' achievements: Bro. Jason Crump (freshmen), Bro. James Riley (sophomores), Bro. John Howard (juniors) and Bro. Andrew Clarke (seniors) all led their classes from beginning to end. "One of the moments that from this year that stood out for me is our discussion about the inequities involving  black and brown students," said Bro. Howard in saluting his group, pointing out how that topic ironically is relevant to current events. The junior class, he says, contains students who have expressed career interests as pilots, orthodontists, engineers, nurses, teachers, accountants, entrepreneurs, pediatricians, chemists, lawyers and architects.

Other advisors are Bro. Brett Blake and Bro. Kelly. Also, Rita Reese, spouse of Bro. Reese, this year joined the program to initiate a new effort that identified and advised about special concerns unique to young black women, called I-N-S-T-A-G-R-A-M.  She reviewed the first-year progress of that program. Parent Club president Joe Jenkins also formally thanked parents for their support, as well as encouraged the students.

The keynote remarks were given by two speakers this year in an attempt to try a different approach that would appeal best to the students. Two speakers were chosen from other Divine Nine organizations -- Keila Foster, Ph.D., from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and William Etti, Ph.D., from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. In a tag-team fashion, Drs. Foster and Etti inspired the students through getting them to consider how to craft and deliver the best of themselves to a changing world badly in need of new ideas and energy. Dr. Etti's message revolved around being prepared to meet "struggles and failures" and Dr. Foster gave them questions to consider to visualize their lives.

Trouble Could Not Have Come at a Worse Time
Project ENRICH began meeting virtually in April, which in many respects, came at the worst possible time for the program. April is always the month that the essays are presented. Students actually stand before a live audience and make their presentations and respond on the spot to questions about the subject matter. But in a twist of creative genius and Perseverance, Project ENRICH, led by Bro. Hines, looked to technology rather than cancel the essays given how hard students had worked to prepare. Subsequent monthly meetings including the closing program have been held on Zoom.

While the closing program is essentially a year-in-review event to recall progress and achievements, it is also designed as a farewell to Project ENRICH seniors, who are all heading off to college after four years in the program which they must start as ninth graders.

Nobody can predict the future when it comes to the pandemic, the economy or the racial strife tearing at our country. But for Project ENRICH, next year is guaranteed to get off to a great start giving where the program was able to leave things this year through pulling together in an unprecedented way. It could have been worse.

Bro. William Reese

Mrs. Rita Reese


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Moms's COVID-19 Fight Emphasizes Unity, Support and Brotherhood of Omega Psi Phi on Mother's Day

Bro. Terence Hare with offspring Sarah and Terance II

Two months ago, Gamma Pi Chapter Bro. Terence Hare was not really sure what his Mother’s Day 2020 would look like. Truth be told, he faced the fact that it might be a time of mourning for him and his family. After all, his 81-year-old mother, Maxine Hare, was laid up in a hospital intensive care unit in Charlotte with the coronavirus. Suddenly, the headlines about the most dangerous global pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918 hit home for Bro. Hare – these weren’t just nameless, faceless numbers talked about on the news. One of those people stricken by this deadly killer was “MOM.”

Well-wishing neighbors
Today, Bro. Hare is not mourning, but is rejoicing. Since Saturday night May 9, he has celebrated Mother’s Day about a thousand times, thankful that he was able to see his mother go through the worst of the disease and emerge healed just in time for Mother’s Day, when she was able to go home. So, while Mother’s Day was observed on May 10 this year, May 9 will always be a holiday for Bro. Hare and his family to mark that very special homecoming. No more tubes. No more ventilator. No more tests. No more hospital gowns, or beds. No more nurses and doctors trooping in and out all hours of the day and night monitoring her vital signs. No more sitting on ins and needles wondering how it would turn out.

“It was the best Mother’s Day ever,” Bro. Hare said, in hat has to be an understatement, as he looked into the television camera during an interview with Charlotte TV station WSOC Channel 9, which did a feature story on Mother Hare’s triumphant struggle with the disease. She and Bro. Hare's daughter are both members of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. 

During his mother’s two-month long hospital convalescence, Bro. Hare experienced firsthand, in a unique and special way, the tightly linked Bonds of Omega as he received support from his Line Brothers (2015) including one who lived in the Charlotte area (Perryn Stewart) and another who rode down with him on  nearly 500-mile drive from Bowie, MD to Charlotte (Sheku Alieu) to be by his side and help him care for his mother for two straight weeks.

Neighbors and family shown support 
In another ironic twist about this story, while Bro. Hare’s mother was recovering from the virus, Bro Stewart’s wife, Sarah, was also recuperating from coronavirus in self-isolation at home. Still, Bro. Stewart managed to bring dinner by a couple of times while caring for his wife, who has now recovered and is doing fine.

In many respects, Bro. Alieu actually found himself keeping tabs on everyone. In true Omega fashion, he was able to handle it all and be the Brother that both Terence Hare and Perryn Stewart needed at the time. Hey, it’s something about this Brotherhood of Omega…through thick and thin…

“Mother Hare was admitted on a Wednesday, but Terry kept it to himself until the doctor called him on Sunday night to tell him she was critical,” said Bro. Alieu. “Terry and I packed and left Sunday night within a couple of hours of the call. I stayed there about 2 weeks until she was no longer critical.”

Sadly, the coronavirus, also called COVID-19 by its laboratory label, has stricken more than 1.5 million Americans in just two short months. Nearly 90,000 Americans have died from the disease in the same time frame, and more than 307,000 (imagine three full NFL stadiums on  Sunday afternoon) have died across the globe. Thanks to God, a loving son, other family and friends, and the love of Omega Psi Phi shown through Brothers Alieu and Stewart, Maxine Hare is not in that sorrowful number. She is still with us, very much alive.

Line Bros. Hare, Alieu, Stewart and Tyrone Smith
[You can reach out to Bro. Hare via email]

Sunday, May 3, 2020

In True Super Chapter Fashion, Gamma Pi Answers the Call on COVID-19 for Prince George's County

Styling the "PPE," America's new health gear in the midst of COVID-19, Brothers prepare as families roll in 
“We’ve made a commitment to be of service to this community and we will honor that pledge through thick and thin. When duty calls, our boots are on the ground ready to go.”
                                                                                             Bro. Steven Walls, Basileus

Since the State of Maryland went into a shelter-in-place posture in March in response to the dangerous COVID-19 crisis, the Brothers of Gamma Pi Chapter have been anything but sheltered when it comes to Social Action. While being careful to follow government-mandated guidelines on social distancing and wearing proper protective equipment, the chapter has been on the move throughout the county helping to provide relief for the residents of the community through a variety of Social Action projects. Dressed smartly in their Royal Purple and Old Gold “PPE,” members of The Super Chapter braved the threats of the lurking virus “to be of service.”  

Like clockwork, Brothers had the process planned to a "T"
On April 2, several Brothers directed traffic at four county schools – Wise High, Suitland High School and Surrattsville High and Benjamin Stoddert Middle School – while the students and their families picked up free Chromebooks provided by the Prince George’s County Public Schools.

About one dozen Gamma Pi members served simultaneously at the four schools, helping to keep a safe and orderly flow of traffic in and out of the school property. Brothers also helped with the laptop distribution in between regulating the traffic flow.

Bringing Fresh Homemade Sandwiches to the Homeless; Groceries to Hungry Families

On Saturday, April 8, the Brothers of The Super Chapter strode into the PG Homeless Shelter to deliver sandwiches to the residents. The food was prepared in advance at the home of one Brother whose wife and daughters stayed up into the wee hours of the night to prepare the sandwiches, wearing protective gear in their home kitchen. For the residents and staff in the homeless shelter, the Brothers of Gamma Pi were the light shining brightly through the storm. In the middle of this frightening pandemic, somebody thought enough of them to take the risk to prepare and bring them fresh food. 

Brothers discuss distribution strategy
The Brothers also completed two major free food distribution projects for the community in April and one in early May when the virus was raging in the midst of a stay-at-home order. On two consecutive Saturdays, April 18 and 25, Gamma Pi, partnering with its Friendship Charities Foundation, Inc., 501 (c ) 3, led the distribution of more than 1,700 grocery bags full of free food to needy families who represented three area schools in the chapter’s adopted community – Suitland Elementary, Drew Freeman Middle School and Suitland High School.

Omega Style Strategic Planning

At these events, the chapter organized the planning and the process, overseeing every aspect of distribution of the food from unloading the truck to unpacking the boxes to putting the packages into the hands of families as they drove through the Suitland High School parking lot. Once in the parking lot, bags were quickly deposited into their open trunks by the Brothers.

On Saturday, May 2, Gamma Pi kept the pace going in the local community but at a different location. This time, it was Largo High School in Largo, Md. During the morning and midday, Brothers oversaw the delivery of hundreds of boxes of food for residents in need. Again, it was Gamma Pi leading the way in helping to connect much-needed free foods to families in need, many who suddenly experienced "the bottom falling out" when the shutdown occurred for public heath reasons.

Checking out the horizon for more vehicles
The work at Largo actually began the day before when a contingent of Gamma Pi men loaded and unloaded a truck that was used to transport the food from refrigerated storage to Largo High located along Largo Road. 

Offering Manpower to Local Government

Basileus Bro. Steven Walls initiated the food drive projects while in conversations with local officials over a period of weeks. Obviously, this was not on the chapter's agenda for this year as COVID-19 appeared out of nowhere and caught fire fast. “We’ve made a commitment to be of service to this community and we will honor that pledge through thick and thin. When duty calls, our boots are on the ground ready to go.”

Keeping the machine running
All the work the Brothers put in during a difficult and uncertain time has solidified Gamma Pi’s reputation as a reliable, committed and courageous Social Action pacesetter in the Mighty Second District of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. To the public, this is amazing, but to the Brothers of Gamma Pi, this is everyday Omega Psi Phi. We observe...then we serve...

Thanks to the Social Action team headed by Bro. Ikey Staton, Jr. and Co-Chair Bro. Tony Kelly for doing an excellent job organizing the team into action for The Super Chapter. Other Gamma Pi members who have been singled out for their leading roles are Brothers Mabili Akinyele, Tiresias McCall (distribution manager), Donovan Benton, and Ed Ryans, who is an official with the county schools.

Some of the volunteers identified by Vice Basileus Rick Allison have included members of Galilee & St. Paul’s Churches, the Ayana J. McAllister Legacy Foundation, Fort Washington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, The Chi Beta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Prince George’s County Public Schools, Mettle Works and Pits.  Logistical support was provided by the Athletic Republic.

(Thanks to Brothers Raphael Terrell, Tony Kelly & Marcus Whitfield of the Public Relations Committee and Brother Tyrone Smith for photos and video clips)


Also, click here to see how Gamma Pi is helping college-bound students in its Project ENRICH program stay on track with the program despite the pandemic, using the wonders of technology

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Gamma Pi's Project ENRICH Students Use Technology to Deliver Essays During Coronavirus Shutdown

Munyang Tengen gives her stellar presentation

The students and parents of Gamma Pi Chapter’s Project ENRICH program circled April 11 on the calendar months ago. It was, after all, the date for the students to deliver their essays. Every year, it is the most anticipated time in the programs’ nine-month agenda. Students get both excited and nervous about writing and presenting their essays.

No one could have predicted that 97% of the United States and almost the entire world would be under lockdown from a deadly, highly contagious virus. There was no way Project ENRICH could meet in person. But Brother Willie Hines, the program’s director, and his team Persevered outside the box and came up with a strategy to hold the essay presentations anyway, despite the public health lockdown, thanks to online video conferencing via Zoom. From safe inside their own homes, a total of 25 students presented their essays to Project ENRICH staff during the same date and time they were scheduled to be at Bowie State University.
Junior Julian Thomas helps get things started

“The COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for Project ENRICH staff to utilize creativity, communication, collaboration, Perseverance and Uplift. Project ENRICH conducted 2020 Oral Essay Presentations by utilizing the Zoom technology platform,” said Bro. Hines.  “Conducting these essay presentations maintained the continuity of Project ENRICH and provided our students the opportunity to focus on something positive besides COVID-19. "

Zoom, which has become a popular form of group video communication in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, allowed these students to make their presentations in living color to the Project ENRICH team members who were also safe inside their own homes. To keep the environment “real” and professional, students still had to dress up as if they were sitting in the Thurgood Marshall Library on the Bowie campus. Much of the same energy and enthusiasm that defines the Project ENRICH essays was still present in the virtual version.

Listening to the presentations. aside from director Bro. Hines, were Project ENRICH team members Brother Andrew Clarke, Anthony Kelly, Jason Crump, John Howard and James Riley Jr. As always with the essays, the Brothers provided constructive feedback to each and every student.

Bro. Riley guides the students through the program
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Enrich utilized a new platform as a means to allow each student to present their essays to the staff.  We were very proud that each student was able to adapt seamlessly, and even more proud of what we heard from each of them today,” said Bro. Riley, who moderated the event. “All of them truly exemplified hard work, determination and perseverance, there is nothing that can stop us.”

The nearly three-hour session was smooth and organized. Brothers had given each of the students specific time slots to sign on, so that at any given time, one person was presenting and one was waiting in the wings. Each presenter was assigned a member of the Project ENRICH team who formally introduced them and asked the follow-up questions afterwards. There was no audience.

Director Bro. Willie Hines
The students were assigned specific questions to address by grade level. For freshmen, the essay question was, “What are the attributes of the 21st century learner, which attributes have you mastered and which attributes is your greatest deficiency in achieving your scholastic goals?” Sophomores were asked to look at “Key drivers causing African American college dropouts and what is your solution to fix the problem?” For juniors, the challenge was answering, “How would you change the American educational system to properly educate African American students?” And, finally, the Seniors got the toughest question of all, “Describe the impact of racism in development of African American youth in 21st century.  What are the mitigations and solutions to overcome racism in reaching your potential as a global citizen?”

Overall, Saturday’s program was a lesson in life for the students. It demonstrated the value of Perseverance despite the obstacles. But it also showed how difficult times can present opportunity.
Below is a list of the participating students, including two who are prospective students for Project ENRICH next year. One of those students is only 12 years old and stars in his own local cable television show.

Quinton Sims (CMIT South)
Joshua Washington (Washington Christian Academy)
Shelemiah Griffiths-Johnson (Samuel Ogle Middle School) -7th grader
David Howard (Frederick Douglass High School)
Cyrus Brookings (Riverdale Baptist)
Anike Akinfolarin (Imagine Foundation at Leeland)
Jana Tengen (Samuel Ogle Middle School) - 8th grader

Jada Smith (Glen Burnie)
Jaylyn Crump (Elizabeth Seton)
Druex Robinson (Bishop McNamara)

Justice Flora (Charles Herbert Flowers)
Kennedy Cheek (Charles Herbert Flowers)
Christa Mathieu (Elizabeth Seton)
Stacey Spencer (Charles Herbert Flowers)
John Howard (Frederick Douglass)
Christian Jenkins (John F. Kennedy)
Imani Roberts (Charles Herbert Flowers)
Julian Thomas (Charles Herbert Flowers)
Justin Coles (Arundel High)

Munyang Tengen (Bowie High School)
Matthew Wesley (Springbrook)
Kai Merriman (Eleanor Roosevelt)
D’Mani Washington (Washington Christian Academy)
Starr Williams (Charles Herbert Flowers)
D’Naja Washington (Washington Christian Academy)