FLINT, Michigan — Kevelin B. Jones II sat, shaking his head, still teary-eyed even after returning to his seat, looking down at the round, glass award in his hand. In some ways, it was a simple award — but it also clearly was so much more.
“I was one of those kids,” said Jones, when he was presented with the Putting Students First Award from the Education Foundation for the Flint Community Schools. Now principal at Doyle-Ryder Elementary School, Jones talked about his father being called up to the school. Young Jones was one of those Flint kids who got in trouble at school. He didn’t see a lot of options and didn’t see a lot of potential.
Jones’ mentor Linda Caine-Smith sat in the audience as he received his award, which was handed to him by Shari Burdt, who herself had won the same award two years ago. She also was Jones’ teacher at Brownell Elementary School. She is again one of Jones’ teachers.
She works for him at Doyle-Ryder.
The award meant so much, because Jones knows first-hand how much Flint teachers matter, what a difference educators can make: “(Students) need to learn who they can be,” he said.
Jones was one of seven Flint Community Schools educators and supporters honored by the Education Foundation for the Flint Community Schools on Monday, June 5, 2018. Two hundred people packed the Ramsdell Room at the Flint Farmers’ Market for the event that often carried the feel of a pep rally and, at times, introductions worthy of professional athletes at the start of a big game.
Jones attended Stewart and Brownell elementary schools, McKinley Middle School, and Southwestern Academy, graduating in 1995. Jones went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music performing arts from Great Lakes University, a master’s in educational leadership from Madonna University as well as a certificate in biblical studies.
Jones has been an educator for 15 years, the last eight as a principal. He joined Flint Community Schools in 2017 and continues to serve as the principal at Doyle-Ryder, where one nominator said: “He’s not just a principal. He’s one of us.”
A musician for 30 years, who has recorded five gospel albums, Jones said it was important to him to come home to Flint, where his roots run deep. His dad graduated from Northern, his mom and one sister from Southwestern, and another sister from Central.
“I have the distinct opportunity to help bring my city back where it is supposed to be,” Jones said.
Jones was one of several educators and community members honored for their service to Flint children by the Education Foundation for the Flint Community Schools. Other awards included:
- Leadership Award to Kelly Fields, principal of Northwestern High School. A lifelong resident of Flint, Fields has been with Flint Community Schools since 2005.
- Innovation Award to Paishann L. Curtis, third- through fifth-grade teacher of science and social studies at Freeman Elementary. Curtis previously taught at King, Manley and Scott elementaries and has been a Flint Community Schools teacher since 1992.
- Harriet B. Kenworthy Literacy Award to Maureen Kildee, a third-grade teacher at Holmes STEM Academy. Kildee, a Flint teacher since 1992, previously served as a reading and math intervention teacher and returned to the classroom in January 2017.
- Dolores C. Ennis Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Vlenaetha M. Stewart, a school psychologist at Durant Tuuri Mott and Brownell elementary schools. Stewart has served students at 11 Flint Community Schools (and other schools as assigned) since joining the district in 1991.
- Distinguished Retiree Award to Dan Berenzy, former longtime principal at Durant Tuuri Mott Elementary School.
- Light a Candle Award to John Rhymes, longtime mentor of Gamma Delta Kudos and role model to countless young Flint men.
“There are a ton of A-plus educators in the city of Flint,” said Joe Eufinger, longtime Flint Central football coach and emcee of the awards banquet.