Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the 2019 Black History Month student contest winners and Excellence in Education Award recipients. This year’s theme was “Celebrating Public Service” and the winners were honored during the Black History Month awards ceremony at the Florida Governor’s Mansion. Black History Month is celebrated every year in Florida during the month of February.

“Ron and I were honored to celebrate the work of some of our state’s most talented students, teachers and artists as we announced the winners of Florida’s Black History Month student contests and Excellence in Education Award recipients,” said First Lady DeSantis. ‘In addition, we were excited to highlight the artwork of Mary Ann Carroll, a mother of seven children and the only original female member of the Highwaymen, who is an extraordinary example of creativity and resilience. How fortunate we are to have these talented people call Florida home.”

“Tonight, we celebrated Florida’s black history and recognized those making contributions in public service that bring black history to life,” said Enterprise Florida President and CEO Jamal Sowell. “Thank you, Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis, for your support and the opportunity to honor African-Americans through the artwork and creative writing of students across the state.”

“Volunteer Florida was proud to join Governor DeSantis and the First Lady to celebrate Black History Month,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Clay Ingram. “While we honored African Americans of the past, we also recognized the students and educators who share these individuals’ stories and carry on a legacy of greatness. They hold so much promise for Florida’s future.”

“Thank you to Governor DeSantis and First Lady DeSantis for hosting the 2019 Black History Month celebration, and congratulations to this year’s student and educator contest winners,” said Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “Black History Month is a great time to recognize African-American leaders, past and current, who have helped to make Florida the best place to live, work and receive an education.”

Award recipients are as follows:

The following student essay contest winners – one elementary, one middle and one high school student – earned a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

Student Essay Contest Winners

  • Maliyah Altemar, Panther Run Elementary School, Palm Beach County
    Maliyah wrote her essay about Mary McLeod Bethune, an American educator, stateswoman and civil rights activist who founded what is now Bethune-Cookman University.
  • Claire Critchett, Pine View School, Sarasota County
    Claire wrote her essay about William Henry Hastie, a revolutionary public servant, educator and civil rights advocate who served as the first African American Governor of the United States Virgin Islands.
  • Chloe Lundeen, Dunnellon High School, Marion County
    Chloe wrote her essay about James Armistead Lafayette, who served in the Continental Army as a slave and helped America win the Revolutionary War to gain independence from Britain.

Student Art Contest Winners

  • Cara Mitchum, Downtown Miami Charter School, Miami-Dade County
    Cara is a kindergartener who drew a picture of Mary McLeod Bethune, an American educator, stateswoman and civil rights activist who founded what is now Bethune-Cookman University.  
  • Whitney Claire Morrill, Gulf Breeze Elementary, Santa Rosa County
    Whitney is a second grader who drew a picture of Daniel “Chappie” James Jr., a Tuskegee Airman who served during World War II and later became the first African American to achieve the rank of four-star general. 

First Lady Casey DeSantis also honored three outstanding educators with the Excellence in Education Award. The recipients were nominated by students and peers.

Excellence in Education Award Winners 

  • Nicole Wilson, Longwood Elementary School, Okaloosa County
    After transitioning out of active duty in the U.S. Air Force and into the Air Force Reserves, Nicole received her dual bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education from the University of West Florida. Nicole has been teaching for six years and is continuing her own education by perusing a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. She makes it her mission each year to bring out her student’s individual talents and guides them to reach their goals during their academic journey.
  • Deanne Reynolds, Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School, Broward County
    Deanne fulfilled her calling of becoming a teacher after earning her business degree from the University of Florida and spending a few years working in corporate America. Originally working as a 7th grade science teacher for Broward County Public Schools, she has since transitioned to become an 8th grade U.S. history teacher at Pembroke Pines Charter School. Although her U.S. history course does not specifically include a unit on African-American studies, she makes sure to incorporate these important parts of history so that students can make personal connections to their own past.
  • Linda Miller-Baker, Washington County School Program at Okeechobee Youth Development Center, Okeechobee County
    Linda teaches Reading and English at the Okeechobee Youth Development Center and is also the Educational Director of the Douglas Brown Tutorial Achievement Project focusing on Reading and Math Recovery. Linda earned her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Florida and holds advanced degrees and certifications from Nova University, Florida Atlantic University and the University of South Carolina. She was honored as the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year in 2016.

To learn more about Black History Month, please visit www.FloridaBlackHistory.com



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