FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 26, 2013
|HCC Local African-American Heroes event honors nine
WELDON, N.C. – For the sixth year, Halifax Community College (HCC) held its “Saluting Our Local African-American Heroes” celebration. Special honors were bestowed on six community leaders and two HCC students during the Feb. 21 ceremony held at The Centre. The Presidential Posthumous Award was bestowed on a recipient for the first time.
This year’s hero honorees included:
Heroes were chosen based on their commitment and contributions to the community, unselfish devotion to others, initiative, innovation and leadership, and willingness to share time and wisdom through community service. HCC student heroes were chosen based on their commitment and contributions to the HCC community, initiative, innovation and leadership, and demonstration of academic promise.
- Betty Bennett
- Bishop William H. Cheek Sr.
- Belinda Hill
- Reginald Hux (HCC student)
- Marcus Lewis
- Tonya Mason (HCC student)
- James Miller Jr.
- Frankie Young
The first-ever presentation of the Presidential Posthumous Award was made to the late Senator Edward Walter Jones, North Carolina Senator representing Halifax, Nash, Vance, Warren and Wilson counties. Jones’ wife, Mary, was present to accept the award.
Saluting Our Local African-American Heroes recipients for 2013 are, from left, Reginald Hux, Frankie Young—not pictured (HCC Trustee Lillie J. Solomon accepted the award on Young’s behalf), James Miller Jr., Marcus Lewis, Belinda Hill, Betty Bennett, Mary Jones, Bishop William H. Cheek Sr. and Tonya Mason.
About the Heroes
Betty Rose Bennett
Betty Bennett’s volunteer services are innumerable. Her outstanding work in the tri-counties includes: vice president, board of directors for the Roanoke River Community Center; member of Gospel Music Workshop of America; member of the Northampton County Child Care Resource and Referral Task Force Planning Board; volunteer with Clothes Closet for Needy Children and Families; and, The Turn Around program (youth/adults—A Tribute to the “Million Man March”). In addition, Betty voluntarily transports underprivileged children to the public library to get cards and check out books. She transports these students to the Summer Enrichment Reading Program sponsored by the library. Betty is credited for developing the “I Can Excel” (ICE) Tutorial Program. Most recently, Betty served as a member of Squire School PTO Association and as a member of Northampton County Schools Positive Behavior Intervention Support Team.
Betty continuously plays an important role in helping to mold and shape the minds of youth through her support of their educational experiences. She reaches them: physically, by having tutorial sessions in her home for children and parents; mentally by organizing parenting workshops to boost self-esteem; emotionally through touching people’s hearts with songs and smiles; and, spiritually as she yields herself to a higher power, her Heavenly Father, who continues to furnish her with the ingredients to make an impact on others.
Betty began her volunteer services in 1979. She has been a full-time teacher in the Weldon School District and part-time substitute in the Halifax County School System. She was also employed as the coordinator of the Competency Remediation Lab at what was Northampton County High School-West. Betty has greatly influenced and uplifted the community through serving as parent coordinator for Northampton County Schools where she consistently showed her untiring dedication and concern for parents and children. Betty is a pillar of the community and is often called on for assistance, playing a major role in helping parents and schools maintain discipline through motivational words and encouragement.
Her unique ability to understand children makes it easy for her to quickly arrange tutorial sessions in her home. She even gave up a paid vacation in order to tutor two young boys who were not passing. She spent her summer with them and they passed.
The impact of Betty’s gratuitous spirit has had a profound effect on those whom she touches. She is loved and respected by all. She has a myriad of letters and commendations to substantiate this. In 1997, she was nominated for and received the Jefferson Award.
A plethora of things could be said about this eloquent, intellectual lady’s contributions to society. The motto of many educational systems is relevant to what Betty does: Our Children Are Our Future. Our children’s future has certainly been enhanced by this great lady.
Bishop William H. Cheek Sr.
Bishop William H. Cheek Sr. is the 90-year-old pastor and founder of Evangelistic Church of Deliverance in Weldon. For many years, he has contributed to the spiritual, emotional, financial and physical needs of thousands of residents in the Roanoke Valley area. Because God blessed this man and the ministry tremendously, there are numerous members who have become prosperous in all walks of life locally, nationally and internationally.
Bishop Cheek is a native of Halifax County who served his country in the U.S. Army from 1942-46. Upon his return home, he married the love of his life, the former Lucille Parker. He is a sincere and loving family man who has been married to his virtuous wife for 65 years. The couple has seven children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
From 1969 when the ministry was started until today, Bishop Cheek has been a vibrant servant of God and exhibits commitment as he contributes to the community. During the years, he has given his time, talent and treasure. He has also led the ministry in giving to the community through clothing and food donations and financial support to various agencies including local schools. In addition, he has approved the ministry’s involvement with Meals on Wheels, mission support to Haiti and other countries, hosting international speakers, supporting local groups who are dedicated to helping youth make wise choices, as well as groups dedicated to the health and safety of women and children. Always looking for ways to positively impact families, Bishop Cheek is alert to needs as they arise in the congregation, community and nation such as aiding during times of natural disasters, overseeing scholarships for youth and encouraging the health and wellness initiative.
Bishop Cheek is a humble man who personifies unselfish devotion to others. When he and his wife started the ministry, they built it on faith and love—faith in Jesus Christ and love for souls of men and women. Knowing that people were lost and in need of a Savior, Bishop Cheek unselfishly sacrificed personal comforts to spread the saving message of Jesus Christ. This included driving his car to pick up members to bring them to services, going out in the early morning hours during inclement weather with his wife to meet spiritual and physical needs of members, and working to provide for his family during the day and going to minister to the congregation in nightly services.
In 2013, that unselfishness has blossomed into many ministries of the church. From Mother Cheek serving multiple roles, there are ministers, ushers and a hospitality ministry, office and maintenance staff, mothers’ board, missionaries, Sunday school, praise dancers and other auxiliaries. A van and bus are available for transportation of members and the community to services and events. The unselfish devotion of his children has birthed five choirs, praise and worship teams and musicians.
Bishop Cheek has shown initiative, innovation and leadership in the region. He is not only a spiritual leader, but also a wise businessman. He has led the ministry through many milestones. The church started in his home and later moved to a storefront near the present location. Later a movie theater was purchased and renovated as the main sanctuary. After attendance increased, a need for another building became evident. In 2001, a building was constructed for more than $1 million that could seat 1,100 people. Bishop Cheek had the initiative to take on the building project challenge in his 80s. The church is paid for and a mortgage-free service was held in 2012 to the glory of God.
Hospitable and humorous, Bishop Cheek has a gentle and inviting spirit. People are amazed at his insight and awareness of current events as he gives vivid examples of ways to pursue positive goals. He has been instrumental in sharing advice with pastors, educators and business professionals in the Roanoke Valley and beyond. He uses his wisdom to help others aim for change that can advance our community. He takes an active interest in Weldon through his designated staff and his personal meetings with town officials. Bishop Cheek has blessed others with his commitment, devotion, innovation and willingness to share.
Belinda Jones Hill
Belinda Jones Hill stands out among African Americans in the Roanoke Valley because of her genuine care and concern for others in the community. Belinda works at Halifax Regional Medical Center as the manager of the Intensive Care Unit, which is a very busy unit. Belinda finds the time to go above and beyond the call of duty for her staff to ensure that they are in a position to provide the best care possible for patients. On any given day, Belinda is a nurse leader, care taker, teacher, referee, counselor and accountant for her staff and patients. Belinda is always open and available to listen to her staff, patients, families, physicians and co-workers. She assists them with formulating solutions, providing support, collaboration, encouragement, sharing and learning. Belinda helps support the professional staff and recognizes the personal needs of her staff as well. She regularly celebrates staff achievements on the achievement wall in her department. She promotes and encourages them in pursuit of additional education, knowledge and certifications. Belinda provides a Thanksgiving dinner for her staff, and celebrates nurses week and critical care nurses week by providing staff recognition with a banquet for staff and appreciation gifts. She and her staff provide support for families during the Christmas holiday by adopting a family in the community to help make Christmas better.
While Belinda is certainly busy in her role as a nurse manager, she also takes the time to serve on the Halifax County Board of Health. She demonstrates not only her concern for patients who are sick, but also for the overall health status of the county by serving in this role. She shows genuine concern for the welfare of others. Belinda is concerned with making sure that the health care and access to care for our county is just as good as, or even better than, that of others in the state and across the country. Belinda is an integral member of the Roanoke Valley Breast Cancer Coalition, which focuses on improving breast cancer care for residents of the Roanoke Valley. During the fall of 2012, Belinda helped the breast cancer coalition sponsor a conference on breast cancer care with the goal to improve care for African-American women in the Roanoke Valley. Statistics had shown that the mortality rate for breast cancer care for this population in the area was greater than the state average. Belinda embraced the concept that improving breast cancer care for African-American women in the community would be a step toward improving mortality rates for this group as well as breast cancer care for all women in the valley. Belinda was happy to lend her support to this conference by volunteering and recruiting vendors and volunteers to participate in the conference. It was an overwhelming success with more than 300 attendees from across the state, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Belinda is a member of Quankey Baptist Church where she is very active. She annually spearheads a coat drive for the needy in the community through her church. During the fall each year, Belinda volunteers and picks up sweet potatoes that she provides for church and community members to help promote healthy eating and provide for the needy. In addition, she is the leader in moving her church to support the local domestic violence shelter, Hannah’s Place, through financial contributions and volunteering as a Hannah’s Place board member. Belinda further supports Hannah’s Place by volunteering to work at Hannah’s Closet, a thrift store, one weekend per month and she also volunteers to answer the crisis line when needed. Belinda understands the importance of helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Belinda works tirelessly to help improve her community and give back to others. She is one of the first to always lend a hand up to others and supports and encourages others to do the same to make the community a better place.
Reginald Hux (HCC student)
Reginald Hux has been entrusted with many qualities that he uses in support of HCC and the community. He is a dedicated husband, caring father, role model student at HCC and a dedicated church member at Roanoke Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Jackson, N.C. At his church, he serves faithfully on the steward ministry and supports all fundraising efforts. He is always available to do whatever is needed for the upkeep of his church.
Reginald is a devoted and academically gifted student at HCC. He is also very loyal and dedicated to the success of the HCC PReparing men for Intellectual, acaDemic & Educational (PRIDE) Program. The PRIDE Program is an academic and student success, mentoring and leadership development initiative. It is designed to increase academic performance, retention, graduation/transfer rates and to decrease student drop-out rates. Reginald is a learning coach with PRIDE and is responsible for case managing 20 new and at-risk men. He has successfully demonstrated leadership ability by assisting new and prospective students in the PRIDE program. His advice has been a great help to these students, many of whom have taken him as a role model. He shows care and compassion to these students and the staff of the PRIDE program.
Reginald is a presidential scholar, a member of the Men of Distinction, the president of PRIDE, a 2012-13 Men of Color Student Leadership Institute fellow, a Halifax Equity Action Leader Learning and Action program trainee, a spokesperson for HCC’s Quality Enhancement Plan learning community, a mentor, a Power Friday Leader for the RV Early College and a volunteer for community service. He also cares for his mother who is on dialysis.
This extraordinary student extends his concern to the College Bookstore. He always makes sure that the bookstore is properly staffed with PRIDE students during college registration. Not only does he assign students to the bookstore, but also mentors their work ethic and job performance.
Reginald is a great asset to HCC and is always positive and encourages students to reach for personal and professional goals.
Marcus Lewis expends unlimited energy working collaboratively with administrators, faculty, staff and students to enhance first-year student adjustment, engagement, and performance, retention and graduation rates. Through work, deeds, actions and verbally, Marcus validates his belief in the aforementioned as essential to helping students thrive academically, socially and professionally.
Marcus is also committed to helping students become self-regulated learners, problem solvers, informed responsible citizens and active learners. As a learning coach with the PRIDE Male Mentoring Program, a student development advisor in the Student Support Services (SSS) Program and a freshman seminar instructor, Marcus provides coaching, academic and career advising, graduation planning, mentoring, leadership and countless other hi-touch services to students. In each role, Marcus consistently brings to the forefront emerging trends in education including the critical need for a student-centered student development infrastructure to guide decision and policy making. His involvement also includes exposing students to service learning opportunities and he actively stresses the importance of giving back to others and the community.
Marcus began his career at HCC in January 2009 as a learning coach for PRIDE. He played a vital role in building PRIDE from the group up into a nationally recognized male mentoring program, as it was highlighted in the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) in 2010. As a learning coach, many hats had to be worn and responsibilities upheld. A few those included coordinating, collecting and sending out three-week early warning grade and attendance reports, assisting participants with exploring career fields, choosing career goals, selecting college majors and scheduling courses. Also, Marcus facilitated workshops that were critical to the success of many first-year male students that included adjusting to the college, study skills and test taking strategies. The early warning grade and attendance reports allowed Marcus to identify early in the semester the students’ areas of deficiency and proactively address and put in place services and programs to amend those deficiencies. Exposing these young men to different career paths and opportunities resulted in a heightened awareness and focus that allowed students to make informed decisions about choosing a major early on and transferring to a four-year college/university. This exposure also decreased the habitual switching-of-majors by students. The workshops he provided helped equip students with the tools needed to successfully navigate the college experience ranging from when they studied, how to improve test taking skills, self regulation, time management, and accessing various student success resources. These interactions and interventions have had a tremendously positive impact on student engagement and adjustment, particularly with first-year, at-risk male students in the areas of retention, graduation and transfer rates.
Marcus, along with the PRIDE staff, had a tremendous impact on male retention and graduation. From spring 2009 to spring 2010, PRIDE boasted an 83 percent retention rate compared to HCC’s fall to fall retention rate of 70 percent. Also, during the 2008-09 year, there were 14 black male graduates and 42 white male graduates, totaling 56 male graduates. After the inception of PRIDE in spring 2009, male graduates increased during the 2009-10 year to 39 black male graduates and 39 white male graduates for a total of 78 male graduates. That increase represents a 39 percent increase in total male graduates in just one year.
Marcus was also instrumental in facilitating the Take PRIDE in Your Community service learning activities for all male students in the program. Initiatives included Habitat for Humanity, the local Ducky Derby, Union Mission, family services, boys and girls club, Hannah’s Place, the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce, Roanoke Rapids Rotary Club and NC Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic. Marcus effectively organized student volunteers and volunteered himself.
Marcus was also instrumental in setting up and structuring PRIDE’s Minimizing Obstacles that Reduce Empowerment (MORE) Program. The program addressed the many obstacles that were faced by both first-year males and returning students. It provided a venue for students to discuss concerns, issues and release animosities without biases.
Marcus has also been productive with SSS as their student development advisor. He began this position in August 2011 and the program has made a miraculous turn around in exposure and student involvement. He has incorporated monthly male rap sessions and college transfer information sessions. The male sessions include a mix of high school, first-year college and returning males so different perspectives are present. The college transfer sessions provide vital information to students hoping to transfer to four-year institutions. This has helped students become more comfortable and knowledgeable of the college transfer process. He also coordinates college tours to motivate them to do what is needed to achieve that possibility.
Both as a learning coach and student development advisor, Marcus has demonstrated remarkable leadership while still managing to provide hi-touch services. One of his most important contributions included utilizing graduation plans and tracking student progress at the college. This affords students a visual, tangible representation of their progress towards attaining a degree, certificate or diploma.
In addition, Marcus has taught ACA 085 and is currently teaching ACA 122. ACA 085 is a first-year student success class that promotes study skills, student engagement and resources that will be needed and utilized throughout their time at HCC.
Managing and analyzing data is a strength that Marcus possesses and enjoys. As a learning coach, he designed processes that automated calculating retention, graduation and college transfer rates. He quantified developmental course outcomes for both English and math to determine the most problematic areas for our students, offering suggestions on how to best address deficiencies. He analyzed and interpreted results of surveys administered to program participants and pointed out correlations that offered possible explanations or reasons for particular outcomes. Determining progression and/or digression in passing rates, graduation, retention and transfer rates was vital to proving program efficiency.
Tonya Mason (HCC Student)
Tonya Mason is in her last semester in the nursing program at HCC. She has a professional demeanor and a joy about her that is contagious. She served as secretary for the Women of Excellence female mentoring group for the 2010-11 year. Her enthusiasm and drive for the organization was refreshing and has helped the Women of Excellence grow.
Her contributions to HCC are evident in all her activities. She offers her time and leadership abilities in every event possible on campus. She has taken responsibilities on herself that she knew had to be done and excelled in them all. She has an awesome ability to see potential in her fellow students that they did not know they had.
She was the 2011 HCC delegate for the Leadership Development Program at the NC Community College System in Raleigh. Her leadership skills are evident in the way she conducts herself and her desire to reach out to fellow students and share her knowledge. She has also lead several workshops on leadership for the Women of Excellence.
Tonya is highly regarded by her nursing instructors. Kelly Harvey says, “Tonya is one of the brightest and hardest-working students I have ever met. She has organized study groups with her peers to help everyone succeed and is a natural leader in the class. She has always acted professionally and demonstrates strength of character in the classroom, laboratory and clinical settings. Tonya has been instrumental in getting the National Student Nurses Association chapter started on the HCC campus. It is truly a pleasure to teach such a student and I have no doubt that Tonya will succeed greatly in the profession of nursing.”
Over the past three years, Tonya has become a wonderful example of the quality of education offered at HCC. She is known by almost everyone on campus and in the community. Tonya is a woman with strong convictions and high standards for herself. She is always humble, kind and compassionate. She is the epitome of a local African-American hero.
James Miller Jr.
Heroic actions are performed every minute of every day by individuals who do not view themselves as heroes. Every day, individuals respond to assist strangers in medical distress. There are those who push their way into burning buildings to look for those who are trapped—even individuals who dive into the dark and murky depths of local waterways for search and rescue functions. While these actions are heroic on their own merits, a true hero is more than merely a function of these tasks. A true hero is a rock of dependability to be there when one needs help. James Miller is one of these heroic rocks of dependability. No matter the time of day, the weather outside or any other obstacle, if someone calls James in need of help, he is going to help without regard to his own sacrifices.
James is a native of the Roanoke Valley, graduating from Northampton High School and beginning his fire service career as a volunteer firefighter with Roanoke Wildwood Fire Department more than 20 years ago where he still volunteers with the rank of captain. James found such rewards in helping others that he became a career firefighter in 2002 when he was hired full-time by the Weldon Fire Department where he currently holds the rank of lieutenant. Realizing the need for an underwater rescue team to be available in the Roanoke Valley, James became a founding team member of the Roanoke Wildwood underwater dive team. James has always been a solid rock of inspiration to those firefighters around him as he has been voted by his peers as firefighter of the year. He is also inspirational in education to his fellow firefighters as he has been awarded for having the most training hours in firefighting for his department.
The functions of a firefighter consist of heroic actions, but what makes James a true hero is that he can always be counted on for help and support. Known as the “quiet guy,” he may not say a lot, but his personality makes him pitch in for work whether asked or not, to lend a hand as he sees the need, and to make those around him feel good about themselves. One thing about James is that he always has a contagious smile for those around him. One of James’ superhero powers is that when he smiles, those around cannot help but smile and laugh as well, regardless of how bad they feel.
James is active in his community and is inspirational in ways other than being a firefighter. For example, he enjoys music and bringing inspiration to others by playing guitar and singing in his church choir. James serves his church, Gaston Missionary Baptist, as a deacon.
Those who work with James, those who have been inspired by him, and those whom he has helped would all agree that James is a rock of dedication and inspiration, making him a hero worthy of recognition.
Frankie Young exemplifies many strong personal traits. She is compassionate, warm, friendly, caring and she is a kindhearted person. For many years, she has committed herself to improving the quality of life for many youth and the elderly in Halifax County. At the age of 95, she involves herself in many community endeavors through service, and addresses civic, educational and cultural concerns in the community.
Frankie is a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, she volunteers at Halifax Regional Medical Center, encourages eligible people to register to vote, takes people to the polls to vote, and helps youth and elderly get their GED. She also teaches vacation Bible school at First Baptist Church in Halifax. Frankie tutors elementary students in reading and math, and supports the Halifax County Boys and Girls Club.
Frankie possesses leadership skills and has a breadth of knowledge and talents within an array of services that have benefitted many people in the county. For many years, Frankie taught in the Weldon school system. She has also served as chairman of the Halifax Community College Board of Trustees. To enhance her physical growth and development, she bowls once a week in Rocky Mount and encourages others to take care of their physical being.
Senator Edward Walter Jones
North Carolina Senator representing Halifax, Nash, Vance, Warren and Wilson counties
Senator Edward Walter Jones demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the community and unselfish devotion through his lifetime of services for local citizens and mankind.
Senator Jones served his country in the United States 82nd Airborne Division. After leaving the military he was a state trooper for 30 years. He then became mayor and police chief of Enfield, N.C. He served in the North Carolina House of Representatives for two years, and began his years of service in the state Senate in 2007, succeeding Senator Robert Holloman, who died in office.
Senator Jones was elected and re-elected to the Senate in 2008, 2010 and 2012. He served all of our citizens in the region with dignity and he was fair to all citizens in the region regardless of race, creed or color.
Senator Jones served as vice chairman of the Senate committee on Appropriations on Justice and Public Safety, and as a member of the following committees: Appropriations/Base Budget, Judiciary II, Mental Health and Youth Services, Redistricting, Select Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Response, State and Local Government, Legislative Ethics Committee, Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety, Joint Legislative Committee on Local Government and Joint Select Committee on Tornado Damage Response.
Senator Jones was a member of the Governor’s Crime Commission, North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, National Conference of Mayors, North Carolina Black Mayor’s Association and the National Legislative Caucus.
Locally, Senator Jones served as a board member of the American Red Cross for the F.E. Turnage Chapter in Rocky Mount, N.C., and served as co-chair of the Study Committee on Poverty Elimination and Recovery for Northeastern North Carolina.
Senator Jones was dedicated to serving his community in many ways. When there was flooding in the 4th district, he would locate the elderly and people with special needs in homes without power and ensure the locations in need of service restoration were relayed to the utility company. During strong storms, Senator Jones would be on call at the fire station to help assist the local citizens with acquiring supplies and services needed. He was dedicated to the youth of his area and would often visit local schools, and was a constant fixture at the senior citizen centers in his district. When a Roanoke Rapids family was denied help in receiving hospital beds for their two special needs children, Senator Jones helped the family obtain the beds. He was also a man of God and was a member of St. Paul Baptist Church in Enfield, N.C., serving a number of years as the chairman of trustee board. As a trustee, he was always instrumental in helping to upgrade the facility at his church.
Senator Jones will be remembered as an advocate for education and law enforcement, and service to rural communities and his church. He devoted his life to his family, a wife of 35 years, Mary, two daughters, Alesha and Andrea, three grandchildren, seven brothers and sisters, and a host of relatives and friends.
For more information on the 2013 HCC Lyceum Series of Special Events, visit
http://www.halifaxcc.edu/lyceum/. To receive notifications of HCC events and events held at The Centre, visit
http://halifaxcc.edu/getevents.htm. This event was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education PBI Formula Grant.
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