Throughout February, APS celebrates the contributions African Americans have made to our nation, and especially to Arlington and our schools. We also take this time to recognize the trailblazing individuals who fought for progress and equity for their communities.
The theme for APS Black History Month 2023 is “Black History is Our History,” which recognizes the connections and diversity we all have as a community in APS.
Follow along on Twitter as we celebrate all month long with #APSBlackHistory
2023 Black History Month Student Leaders
The School Board is proud to recognize the 2023 Black History Month Student Leaders, chosen by their principals for their contributions in and out of the classroom. These students stand out through collaboration, mentoring, getting involved in causes and activities, and academic excellence, and have demonstrated a serious commitment to addressing issues of social justice in their schools. The recognition will take place on Thu, Feb. 2, 7 p.m. at the School Board meeting which will also highlight African American administrators in APS.
Fana Dereje – H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program
H-B Woodlawn is delighted to have Fana Dereje as our Black History Month Student Leader of the month. Dereje is a Junior and a high-achieving student as well as a valuable member of the H-B Community. She maintains her academic success while being actively involved in the HIVE Club and Black Student Union Club. She also tutors outside of school. Fana says a leader that has inspired her to achieve is Madam C.J. Walker, an African American woman entrepreneur who achieved massive success with a hair-product company for African American women, in a time when a black woman reaching that level of success was unheard of. She is so inspirational to Fana because it’s her dream to go into business and become a CEO and inspire others. Fana says, “Her helping the community is so inspirational for me and is something that I hope I could achieve in my life as well. Black History Month signifies a period when we can all stop to appreciate what the black community has brought to our culture and learn the history and culture of the Black community. I believe that when everyone understands each other, we become collaborative and make the world a better place.”
Jordan Hickman – Wakefield High School
Jordan Hickman is a powerful junior at Wakefield High School. He was selected for this recognition because of his academic excellence and his significant contribution and commitment to school programs and activities. Jordan maintains a high level of academic achievement while challenging himself by taking the most rigorous courses offered. In addition, he serves as a leader in several school activities. Jordan is a Varsity Captain of the football team and serves as a member of the Wakefield Athletic Leadership Council, as club president of Brothers Stick Together peer mentoring program, and as a member of the Cohort program. When asked who inspires him to achieve success, Jordan named activist, author and U.S. Olympian, John Carlos because he inspired his father, the man he looks up to most. He also shared that Black History Month is significant to him because it is a time of recognition for all the successes Black people have accomplished.
Sidney Platt – Langston High School Continuation Program
Langston Continuation Program is delighted to have Sidney Platt as our Black History Month Student Leader. Platt attended APS from grades K-4 and recently re-enrolled after spending a few years in Florida. Platt enjoys painting and would love traveling around the world. While he is unsure about his immediate post-secondary plans at this time, he has a love for animals and would very much like to become a Veterinary Technician. Since arriving at Langston, he has gained an enormous sense of self-confidence and pride. You can see it on his face as he walks the halls and participates in classroom activities. Because of this, he has formed healthy relationships with his fellow peers and faculty, improved his attendance and is currently on the Honor Roll (all A’s this quarter!). The Langston staff was extremely proud and excited for him upon learning that he mastered all areas of his World Geography PBA this past month. In addition to his academic successes, he has a huge heart and a great smile. He helps his peers feel at ease within the classroom setting and is always willing to help his classmates when needed. All of these accomplishments have occurred over the past couple of months, and it has been a privilege seeing him transform both personally and academically.
Liya Rike – Washington-Liberty High School
Washington-Liberty selected Liya Rike as the honoree for the Black History Month Student Leader. Rike has overcome so much to achieve what she has, and W-L administrators believe that she will continue to do so throughout her life. Last year she signed onto two journalism courses just to learn what they were about and develop some new skills. Rike was admitted to Elon University, Radford University, George Mason University, ODU, Lincoln University, Norfolk University, Mount St Mary’s and Washington Jefferson University. She was a selected member of the Minority Student Achievement Network National Virtual Conference and reported to the school board on this activity last spring. Rike is the Black Student Union President and plans weekly meetings and activities as well as the Black History Program. Rike wants to use journalism to make a positive impact on both her home countries, the US and Ethiopia. She is passionate about interests as diverse as politics and writing as well as music and dancing. She is motivated and inquisitive. She knows herself well and is not easily distracted. She knows the value of rising to a challenge and putting in the time for learning and achieving her goals. She always takes good as well as bad and learns what she can from it all.
Sara Tewelde – Yorktown High School
Sara Tewelde is Yorktown’s Black History Month Student Leader. She is an incredible student that brings positivity and enthusiasm into all her activities, including academic studies, student involvement, and engagement with her peers. She serves in the Agriculture Club (VP), Board Game Club (VP), Key Club (Secretary), National Honor Society, Sister Circle, and Ceramics Club, and is an outstanding leader at Yorktown. Her motivating figure is Michelle Obama. Sara sees her as more than simply a wife–she is the epitome of “you can have it all,” who has helped so many people through her initiatives. Sara finds motivation through connecting with her peers, stating that it’s important that they take the time to encourage each other to find excellence within, because each of us has unique gifts to share. Black History Month to Tewelde is the compilation of all the Black excellence around us. It is a time to highlight our achievements as well as share our contributions to society.
Sabrina Tisdale – Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program
Sabrina is a sweet, loving, and kind individual who knows no stranger. She can make friends in almost any social environment. Sabrina enjoys collaborating with her Best Buddies friends from HB-Woodlawn. Sabrina is a leader at the Shriver Program because she is always willing to be of assistance to her fellow classmates, faculty, and staff at the Shriver Program. Sabrina works in the school vocational room each morning and some of her jobs include taking coffee order and preparing coffee. Sabrina is enthusiastic about drawing, dancing, and listening to classical music.
Marlene Reyes – Arlington Career Center
Marlene Reyes is a hard-working student who cares deeply for her community. As a Sophomore in the Arlington Tech program at the Arlington Career Center, she has made a positive impact on the program and continues to show growth in her leadership and activism. Reyes is part of the Cultural Leadership Team at Arlington Tech, a selected group that plans and coordinates school-wide events and fundraisers. She is also a member of the school Equity Team. She works to ensure equity through school communications and inclusive school activities such as leading the No Place for Hate Campaign. As a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion leader, and Afro-Latina advocate, she is very thoughtful and intentional about including all the programs at ACC in her activities and events. Marlene finished her freshman year on A/B honor roll, and continues to excel, taking Dual Enrolled courses in TV Production and Medical Terminology this year. Outside of school, Marlene demonstrates her commitment to issues of social justice, as well as her care for her community. She supports the Center for Black Educator Development in Philadelphia through their social media work and volunteered this Fall for the March on Washington Film Festival. We are so excited to watch Marlene continue her pursuits in high school and feel lucky she is part of our community.
Samonyia White – Arlington Community High School
Samonyia White is an outstanding student, a remarkable scholar and an all-around amazing person. Throughout her years in Arlington Public Schools, she has demonstrated both excellent attendance and a superior work ethic. She strives to achieve in all classes, including her college dual-enrollment course. Her contributions to all her classes enrich every course she takes. Teachers have noted that she brings unique and valuable insight to all her class activities and discussions. She is working hard to apply to many colleges and universities and can’t wait to complete a degree in computer science. Her family and friends are a source of inspiration, describing that whenever she doubts herself, they are there to remind her of who she really is and her worth and value. In her writing assignment for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Samonyia vows to “push the boundaries that try to limit [her]… [and] stand tall”. Black History Month is important to her because it recognizes the black heroes that have helped shape America. Samonyia’s personal inspiration comes from a research article she once read that found the most educated demographic group in America is Black women. She wants to be a part of that demographic, so she is striving to continue her education. With her determination, her intelligence, and work ethic, she will no doubt go far.