“No matter where I come from, I will overcome any challenge, I will win!” announced Savoy Elementary 5th grader George Weary (below) as he invited Michele Roberts, the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, and the first woman to head a major professional sports union in North America, to join him on stage. Last week, Weary and Roberts were a part of the Gala celebration of the 20th anniversary of the largest mentoring and literacy organization in the Washington metro area — Everybody Wins!
For her part, Roberts described how she would also over come the odds to win, specifically how she defied the odds to rise to her current notoriety from the Bronx projects. “God was good enough to give me a mother who understood that, despite her horrible education, the key to the castle was education. The second reason I made it out was because she gave me my first book. My earliest memory was of my mother reading to me…we didn’t have a car, and had no money to travel, but reading introduced me to all kinds of people and places…I read and I read and I read.” The importance of the first book was no surprise to literacy advocates in attendance.
The evening did hold a surprise, however, as EW!DC’s co-founder, Joanie Chase, (with EW!DC from its inception in 1995 until leaving the DC area in 2001) was reunited with one of her first mentees, Berta Gonzalez, who boasted, “She helped make me a brave fighter… I won more than a reading mentor. I won a friend for life.”
Abby Yochelson of the Library of Congress received the Minnon Friedman Mentor of the Year Award for her excellence in mentorship. Abby’s mentee, Emilia Benitez, presented the award telling everyone in attendance, “I have the best reading mentor! Miss Abby is smart like me. I’m so proud of her for winning…she really deserves it. The votes are in and everybody agrees with me. She rocks!”
And though individuals were recognized and awards were given, student performers were, as usual, the real stars of the show. CNN’s Brianna Keilar, serving as emcee, welcomed the Amidon-Bowen Elementary School choir to offer a performance of “Lean on Me,” followed by “Everybody Wins When You Read With Children!” written by Terence Hope.