Forest Park PTSA ‘Making a Difference’

The atmosphere got a bit emotional at Forest Park High School, Thursday evening, as Shanda Ross, president of the Parent Teacher Student Association, presented “Making a Difference Awards” to community members and students.

Among the recipients were: Forest Park High School parents, Angelia Gerton and Natalie Cole; Rhythm and Blues artist Angie Stone; and Kysha Cameron, CEO of the Ryan Cameron Foundation.

The “Panther Pride Award,” which is reserved for a top student, was presented to Gabrielle Johnson, a senior at the school, for her contributions in the community and at the school.

Ross, who was largely responsible for putting the event together, said the purpose is to create a platform in which those who have impacted the welfare of students and the education system, can be recognized.

“We will present these awards at each of our meetings,” said Ross. She said the decision to present Stone and Cameron with Making a Difference awards came after looking back on the school system’s accreditation crisis, and realizing how both women had made an impact on students’ lives. For Stone, she said, it was her music, and for Cameron, it was through her foundation. “A lot of students were able to relate to [them],” said Ross.

Before the presentation of awards, parents and community members got the latest news on renovation plans for Forest Park High School, from Cephus Jackson, chief operations officer for the school district. Jackson said the entire school will be renovated, which will include putting in a new air conditioning unit in the gymnasium, and expanding the foyer.

“Architects have already begun to work on the plans,” he said. “We will break ground in the summer of 2012.”

Angelia Gerton, one of the award recipients, had a hard time holding back tears, as she was greeted with warm hugs by Ross and the school’s principal, Derrick Manning. As Gerton stood before the audience, she covered her face, trying to hide the tears, especially as Ross continued to lavish her with praise for dedication, and commitment to the school and the community.

Angie Stone, another recipient, had a similar reaction. When she got up to receive her award, tears began to stream down her face. “Overwhelmed” was the word she used to describe her feelings. Stone then praised parents who take time to be involved in their child’s education, and shared her story of dealing with her 14-year-old son, who, she said, is a freshman in high school this year.

She told the audience it can be difficult for him to receive the parental support he needs, because he has two celebrity parents. His father, she said, is neo soul singer and songwriter, DeAngelo. “I may be a celebrity, but I’m a human being just like you all,” said Stone. “It’s not the Grammy’s or the Soultrain Awards that count ... But, awards like this [Making a Difference] are the awards that count.”

Kysha Cameron, however, contained her tears and showed her appreciation for her award through words of encouragement for the parents sitting in the audience. “Parent involvement is such a key component,” she said. “You [parents], by being there, you really get to see the benefits of [their success.]”

When it came time to present the Panther Pride Award to Gabrielle Johnson, a senior at the school, Ross shared with the crowd that Johnson had told her she would be the student who would win the PTSA’s $1,000 scholarship this year. At that point, Stone stood and said she would donate an additional $1,000, so two students –– not just one –– could receive a scholarship for college.

Stone later added that it would be an ongoing venture for her, and that it will be called the “Angie Stone Making a Difference Scholarship Award,” and be available to all Clayton County seniors, “who are making a difference in the community.”

In addition to the awards, the PTSA gave away a $300 “Teacher Mini Grant” to the school’s marketing teacher, Patricia Moses. Moses said she will use the money to help sponsor the Forest Park High School Recruitment Fair, which will be held Sept. 21. at the school.

In addition, Greenway Medical Technologies, of Carrollton, Ga., presented the group with a donation of 12 computers for the school’s parent-resource lab.