FLINT, Michigan — The Sarvis Park Neighborhood Association
threw a neighborhood-wide open house to celebrate the area's high school graduates on Friday, July 22. Residents, sports stars, graduates, superintendents, political leaders, and even Mayor Sheldon Neely arrived to support and congratulate the graduates.
The open house took place at Sarvis Park to the sounds of new and old-school music and the chatter of attendees catching up and enjoying classic Flint Community School rivalry. Prayer and libations occurred before the meal as the menu included fish, potato salad, coke slaw, chicken wings, and beverages.
Dr. Ladel Lewis spearheaded the event with the Flint Lady Monarchs
Professional Basketball team, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. Omega Theta Zeta Chapter, and Michigan Democratic Senator Jim Ananich as co-sponsors. The Lady Monarchs Sparkle Taylor and Jasmine Thomas, who graduated from Northwestern and Hamady High School and recently won the United Cup Championship, were present to talk with graduates, offer support, and shower them with praise. It's a moment for Thomas that goes hand in hand with playing sports and giving back.
"To see all this put together, come out and be a part of the inspiration and motivation for the younger generation, I think, is dope." - Jasmine Thomas; Flint Lady Monarchs
"It's real cool to come out here. I don't think its a lot of highlighted events around Flint. Although there's a lot of back work, there needs to be a little more limelight," Thomas says. "To see all this put together, come out and be a part of the inspiration and motivation for the younger generation, I think, is dope. I want to be able to continue to contribute to the positivity."
Contributing and being an inspiration is what Hamady High School graduate Kealen Gilbert says was a big help. The recent grad was one of the students honored as he arrived in style, wearing a crisp white t-shirt, red joggers, and red sneakers with his mother. Snapping photos with Mayor Neely and answering questions, the young man was in good spirits. Gilbert plans on attending Mott Community College, majoring in Industrial Technology, in addition to playing sports. But while he's happy to graduate high school, it wasn't an easy task, and it took a lot of support to get him through.
"I feel good. I didn't have a lot of people in my corner to back me up until I met [Dr. Ladel] in the park. She was able to help up and lift my spirits," Gilbert says. "I choose Industrial Technology [because] I wanted to build, make something new and [create] my own thing. I'm interested in and fascinated by it."
That support is critical to the mission of Westwoods Height Community School District's Superintendent Les Key. Key arrived with a purpose to show students like Gilbert that he's here for them and that the community will continue to invest in students even after they've gone off to college.
"For me, to come out and support my students is everything. That's what it's all about for us — making sure that our kids know that we truly care about them," Key says. "[It's] letting them know that we'll check on them beyond the classroom and support them even after high school. I always say this to them when they graduate; I want them to learn. I want them to earn and then return."