Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis Host Students and Teachers to Celebrate Black History Month

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis honored Black History Month with a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. At the event, the Governor and First Lady announced the winners of the student and educator contests. The Black History Month Student and Educator Contests are made possible through a collaboration between the Department of Education, Volunteer Florida, the Florida Lottery, and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

“Black History Month is an important opportunity for students to learn about the achievements of African Americans to both our country and our great state,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “It was an honor to host this year’s art, essay and educator winners at the Governor’s Mansion and see what our students have learned over the month.”

“Our Black History Month essay and art competitions help Florida’s students discover and highlight the impressive contributions of African Americans to the great state of Florida. Every year I am excited to read the submissions that students send to honor those achievements,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “It was a pleasure to welcome this year’s student contest winners and some of our state’s best educators to the Governor’s Mansion.”

“Black history is an integral part of American history and Florida history. The Black History Month student art and essay contest allows Florida students to immerse themselves in a piece of Florida’s history,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “This contest would not be possible without our great teachers who engage our students and ensure that they are learning the facts of history. I congratulate all of the winners of this year’s contest.”

“Florida’s Black History Month contests provide students with an opportunity to learn about and recognize the inspirational African American leaders who make our state and nation proud,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “Thank you to both the students and educators who participated in this year’s contests, and congratulations to the winners!”

“Florida goes the extra mile to recognize the immense and historical contributions of African Americans in our great state,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Josie Tamayo. “We are proud to offer this opportunity each year to recognize outstanding students and educators in Florida for their unique efforts and talents.”

“Florida is blessed to have such talented students and educators, and this year’s Black History Month essay and art contests are proof,” said Florida Lottery Secretary John F. Davis. “Seeing what these students have accomplished is inspiring and showcases the hard work and determination that they put forth in the classroom each and every day.”

Students in kindergarten through third grade were invited to submit original artworks for the contest. Four art contest winners were chosen to receive a $100 art supplies gift card and a 1-year pass to Florida state parks.

Students in fourth through twelfth grade were invited to submit an essay no longer than 500 words based on this year’s theme. Six winners were selected including two elementary students (grades 4–5), two middle school students (grades 6–8) and two high school students (grades 9–12). Winners will receive a 2-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation and a $100 gift card for school supplies.

Additionally, the Governor and First Lady announced the Black History Month Excellence in Education Award Contest. Four winners were selected from nominations sent in by principals, teachers, parents or guardians and students. Excellence in Education award winners will receive a $2,500 prize provided by Volunteer Florida.

Award recipients are as follows:

Student Art Contest

Isabella Miranda, Everglades K-8 Center, Miami-Dade

Isabella is a 3rd grade student who submitted her work titled “Celebrating the Achievements of African American Floridians” depicting Jackie Robinson.

Ke’Mari Cannon, Golfview Elementary Magnet School, Brevard County

Ke’Mari is a 2nd grade student who submitted her work titled “Highwayman’s Sunset” depicting a famous Highwaymen painting.

Camren Curtis Carrington, Harbordale Elementary, Broward County

Camren is a 2nd grade student who submitted a work titled “Joseph E. Lee,” depicting Lee.

Zaylan Hill, Golfview Elementary Magnet School, Brevard County

Zaylan is a 2nd grade student who submitted a work titled “Highwayman’s Sunset” depicting an interpretation of a Highwaymen painting.

Student Essay Contest

Taige Leathers, Richard Lewis Brown Gifted and Academically Talented Academy, Duval County

Taige is a 5th grade student who wrote an essay titled “Dr. Nathaniel Glover Jr: Making His Way Through Black History.”

Katherine Valdes Torres, Mike Davis Elementary, Collier County

Katherine is a 5th grade student who wrote an essay titled “James Weldon Johnson.” Katherine wants to be a geneticist when she grows up and wishes to be kind to others and help them succeed in life.

Adrian Arias, South Creek Middle School, Orange County

Adrian is a 6th grade student who wrote an essay titled “Fly High” about General Daniel James, Jr. Adrian wishes to study animal medicine and join the Army.

Adriana Singleton, Oak View Middle School, Alachua County

Adriana is an 8th grade student who wrote an essay titled “$1.50 and a Dream” about Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Adriana wants to become an Emergency Medical Technician and later go on to nursing school.

Elyanah Gibson, Florida Virtual School, Lee County

Elyanah is a 9th grade student who wrote an essay titled “The Matriarch of Liberty City” about Augusta Savage. Elyanah hopes to one day become a pediatrician and enjoys volunteering to help stray animals.

Chanel Victorin, Strawberry Crest High School, Hillsborough County

Chanel is a 12th grade student who wrote an essay titled “Clarence Fort: Florida Hero.” Chanel plans to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and become a software engineer.

Excellence in Education Award Winners

Brandi Grant, Castle Hill Elementary School, Broward County

Ms. Grant teaches 5th grade students and is described as an educator who is outgoing and loves to work together with other teachers to build exciting lesson plans for her students.

Linda Long, Grand Ridge School, Jackson County

Ms. Long teaches 6th grade students in English Language Arts. She is described as a standout for all that she has contributed to her school and puts her total dedication into all that she does for her students.

Cleon Edwards, Joseph Stilwell Military Academy of Leadership, Duval County

Ms. Edwards teaches 8th grade students and leads the military leadership program at her school. She is described as a role model for her students and to celebrate Black History Month, she encouraged her students to learn about influential or lesser known African Americans throughout history and create a poster about them.

Lisa Herron, Cypress Bay High School, Broward County

Ms. Herron teaches grades 9–12 and is the mathematics department chair at her school. She is described as respected and admired by both her students and fellow teachers. She is involved with multiple organizations on campus and she served as the Regional Director for the Florida Association of Mu Alpha Theta, making her the first African American to hold the position.

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