Behailu Academy’s awards go to Thomas Davis, Stuart Scott

The Charlotte Observer
City News
Saturday, November 22, 2014

Behailu Academy, a nonprofit after-school creative arts enrichment program, held its first Mosaic Awards ceremony and fundraiser Nov. 14 at Carolina Golf Club on Old Steele Creek Road.

At the Mosaic Awards, there was food, entertainment and a silent auction of Behailu’s students’ artwork. The painting on the right is titled Different Perspectives.

At the Mosaic Awards, there was food, entertainment and a silent auction of Behailu’s students’ artwork. The painting on the right is titled Different Perspectives.

Two of the awards recipients have been involved with Behailu from the beginning. They are Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers linebacker and founder of the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation. The other honoree is ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott.

When accepting his award, Davis said, “The past doesn’t determine the future. … I’m living proof that it’s not where you start that determines where you finish.”

The Davis family also donated $15,000 to the transitional housing program.

The Scott family accepted the award on behalf of Stuart Scott. Due to his long battle with cancer and ongoing treatment, he was unable to attend.

His sister, Susan Scott, of Durham said, “Young people everywhere deserve to have the experiences we’ve had. … Stuart would have said Behailu represents everything that’s important to him.”

The third honoree of the evening was the 2014 Burroughs Wellcome Fund N.C. Teacher of the Year James Ford, a ninth-grade, social studies teacher at Garinger. He got involved with Behailu 1 1/2 years ago and now serves on the board.

Ford said he likes to help kids who have been “written off and labeled and help them see themselves” beyond the stereotypes.

About Behailu he said, “There’s so much that doesn’t get taught in the classroom and at home. … Through the arts, they free themselves and learn more than they’ve ever set out to know about who they are and what they want out of life.”

More than 200 people attended the awards banquet, which raised $35,000 for the current creative arts program and a future transitional living housing program for young male adults who’ve graduated from Behailu. The housing program is expected to begin in 2015.

Since opening in October 2012, the program boasts a 100 percent graduation rate. The program is open to middle and high school students in Charlotte.

Deedee Mills, Behailu’s founder, said students in the program have found their voice.

Deedee Mills, left, stands with Behailu students as they read their thoughts about Behailu on colorfully decorated, paper hands. The hands were displayed on every table in the country club. Areanna Townsend is holding the mic and reading a poem she wrote about Behailu.

Deedee Mills, left, stands with Behailu students as they read their thoughts about Behailu on colorfully decorated, paper hands. The hands were displayed on every table in the country club. Areanna Townsend is holding the mic and reading a poem she wrote about Behailu.

Garinger High School 11th-grader Areanna Townsend proudly stood in front of Mosaic Award attendees and expressed how Behailu Academy affected her.

“We paint our joy on the walls,” she said.

Another 11th-grader from Garinger, Charles Holland privately said, “When I am fighting with family and friends and when I feel misunderstood, I have Behailu.”

Similar sentiments were voiced throughout the night by Behailu’s students.

Director Lori Krzeszewski said they hosted the recent event to change more lives and recognize other difference-makers in the community.

Krzeszewski held the mic and tried to gain composure for her final speech. With glassy eyes and tear-stained cheeks, she talked about what Behailu had meant.

“To be at a place where children don’t want to go home, it’s a beautiful problem,” she said. “However, we need to do more. What do you say when a kid tells you, I don’t have anywhere to stay.

“I can’t get rid of these kids. … There’s a big need to serve them and their families beyond what we are doing now. We hope to build a community center in NoDa to support all ages, from toddlers to grandparents. This is going to happen.”

Krzeszewski optimistically glanced at Mills and said, “Deedee and I always say that if you keep doing the right thing for the right reasons, doors will open.”

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Achievements and Awards, Charlotte Observer, Education, Entertainment/Creative Arts, Events and Galas, Newspaper, Philanthropy, Traditional Journalism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s