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)