Prom’s fairy godmother

By AWNYA GREENFIELD, CHRISTINA RICHARDSON and JADE KING

Once upon a time, a teenage mother dreamed of going to her high school prom. But at sixteen years old — with a child to support — she knew that working, both at school and at her jobs, was the only way to provide the type of future she wanted for her new family. The dance simply wasn’t a priority.

But then, an act of kindness made her dream come true. Someone donated the things she would need to make prom a reality — right down to the dress. It was a real-life Cinderella story.

Delavisha Harris Faison never forgot the “glamour” of that prom or how it made her feel. So when, long after graduating from Goldsboro High School, she found her own success and was in a position to pay that act of kindness forward, she did just that. And hundreds of dresses later, she still does. In all of these storybook-like moments, she was now the fairy godmother.

Delavisha created “Project Prom” to ensure no teenager misses out on a memory because they can’t afford a dress, shoes, or ticket. And this year, the ninth in a row it has done so, her organization made prom possible for many of the young women who will attend tonight’s GHS Prom.

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When asked about a specific moment that made her emotional — a particular girl’s story that touched her heart — she said, “it’s every time.”

“It makes me feel proud to see their smiles,” she told the Pride. “Reminds me of when I was sixteen.”

And it reminds her that sometimes, all it takes is a little help to remind a young person that they have value — a feeling she knows firsthand can propel them toward a future of success.

“I’ve had (girls I have given dresses to become) lawyers and business women,” she said.

And when their paths have crossed later in life, they’ve never forgotten “Aunt Visha” and how she made them feel once upon a time.

(Editor’s note: This story will be updated and extended, but in the interest of getting it up before the GHS Prom, we have published an abridged version of the piece.)

In control of her destiny

By TAWANA RICHARDSON

Destiny Williams admits that she’s a little bit nervous.

“I’m going to be 10 hours away from home,” she said. “And I’m going to be by myself.”

But when Ohio’s Notre Dame College – not to be confused with the University of Notre Dame ­– offered her a full ride to run track, the seventeen-year-old Wayne School of Engineering senior knew she had to say yes.

And with the stroke of a pen, that’s just what she did Wednesday inside the Goldsboro High School media center.

“I’m excited,” she told the Pride. “I actually see myself being there for the next four years. It felt like home.”

But the opportunity to run track will not be the only thing on Destiny’s mind when she starts school this fall. Her dream is to be a broadcast journalist, and “ESPN cameras are usually on campus, and I know that will I have a great opportunity for an internship with the company.”

Signing with Notre Dame was not always a done deal. In fact, Destiny’s first choice was Hampton. But when we asked her why Notre Dame came out on top, she said the school’s track coach made her feel like family.

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“He is caring,” she said. “He texted me to check up on me when I hurt my knee. He recruited me during the good and the bad.”

Caring. Just like a woman who has always been there for her. The woman she calls her “inspiration.”

“My mom had a stroke and she always pushed me to keep going,” Destiny said. “She always told me that I am in control of my own destiny – and that I am my only competitor. I’m thankful for her, my dad, and coach Wilson. He pushed me harder. He is the one who brought it out of me.”

Sure, she has had help along the way. But it must be said that this young lady has always shined outside of the classroom. She has played basketball, tennis, and soccer. She was a cheerleader and a competitive swimmer.

Add in her solid academic performance and Destiny has become someone the WSE and Goldsboro High School student bodies have come to love. But even though we will hate to see her leave, we know that she will chasing her dreams and putting hard work in motion.

“You can expect all you want and you’ll never get anything,” she told the Pride. “But the moment you put in hard work, you’ll get everything you worked for.”

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Seventeen Reasons Why

From Pride staff reports

Aryianah King walked out for her father — for the fatal gunshot wounds to the head and chest he suffered inside a convenience store October 23, 2017.

“Seeing him lying down in a box … was traumatic for me,” she said. “So for me to speak out on (gun violence) gives me inner-peace and gives me a voice.”

Christina and Tawana Richardson left their classrooms for Desconte Bryant — a friend and classmate who would be graduating this year if a gunman hadn’t riddled his body with bullets last May.

Each of the several hundred Goldsboro High School students who made their way to the football field Wednesday morning had a reason for doing so. Some were just more comfortable talking about theirs than others.

We don’t look like the Stoneman Douglas High School students who lost their friends, teachers, and coaches when Nikolas Cruz did what he did on Valentine’s Day. We don’t come from the same kinds of neighborhoods. We didn’t know Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jamie Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrap, or Peter Wang.

But we lowered our heads and said a prayer for them this morning.

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And back in our classrooms, we talked about our own experiences with guns and mental illness — and how easy it was for the shooter to get his hands on an assault rifle.

Prophet DeVaughn’s big takeaway was what he sees as a lack of gun control in the United States.

“The government needs to tighten up on how easy it is to buy a weapon,” he said. “For example in some states in the country you can go buy a handgun at the age of sixteen. No one at that age should own a gun.”

And Awyna Greenfield said the shooting made her think about bullying and how out of control people act on social media.

So no, we don’t look like those kids in Florida. We don’t go to a school that’s considered one of the best in the country. But Shy Franklin noted that gun violence isn’t about race or wealth.

“I don’t feel like this world is safe for anyone of any race because of gun violence and I don’t think that Goldsboro is a safe place either,” she said. “There’s two people that I know and that I was close with that have been gunned down and it hurts to know that people out here are hurting and they have to go around hurting innocent people.”

So Shy and her classmates braved the cold for those seventeen minutes and watched the Student Government Association release a red balloon each minute — one for every victim of this latest horror.

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Prophet’s hope is that “those seventeen minutes could and will have a huge impact on not just the lives of the families that lost these people, but hopefully on the entire nation.”

“Each heart-shaped balloon represented each soul that was released on that tragic day. As the balloons floated away, I just couldn’t help but see it as the souls of those victims moving on and finding peace beyond this world.”

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Now, it’s up to us to ensure peace in this one.

“It’s as if those gunshots still keep ringing in my ear and it’s a sound that makes me more scared than ever,” Tatiana Eason said. “More than 100 people a day are killed by a gun in the hands of somebody who has a cold mission.”

Tawana agrees.

“Looking in on the situation this wasn’t just another ‘white kid problem.’ This was another school and another victim after victim after victim after victim. How many more victims before it actually stops? Not for one year. Not for five years. Not for twenty. Forever,” she said. “The bullying, the teasing, everything needs to stop. But the most important thing that needs to stop is asking ‘why’ when everyone knows what happened and why it happened. I will never try to justify this traumatic situation, but I will say that it is a two-way street. This isn’t the first school shooting that has moved us, but my question is why is this the first to be politically touched on?

“As you look into the whole situation you can see that they are referring back to Sandy Hook and all other school shootings but what I don’t get is, what was done to stop it? No. What was done to prevent it? Something that should of never happened did and now look. The (lawmakers) say it was a tragedy. They say it was never supposed to happen. They say that they are sorry. But what did you do to help? A sorry isn’t going to bring a life back.”

Fight night

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By AWNYA GREENFIELD, TATIANA EASON and PROPHET DEVAUGHN

Thursday night, the Goldsboro High School gymnasium will host three basketball games against Midway, but something bigger than sports is set to take place, too — a “Pink Out” to raise awareness about breast cancer and raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

The young men and women on our junior varsity and varsity teams always play for the Cougars. But tomorrow, they will “Play4Kay.”

So who is Kay Yow? A Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach who sat at the end of the North Carolina State University bench from 1975 to 2009, Coach Yow became an inspiration to women around the world during her battle with cancer. Sure, during her career, she is credited with leading the Lady Wolfpack to more than 700 wins, 20 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and a berth in the Final Four in 1988. But coaching a college team and during the Olympic Games and being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is only part of her story.

Her long battle with breast cancer and her efforts to promote research and raise awareness about the disease made her a global celebrity. And since the Kay Yow Cancer Fund was created in 2007, millions of dollars have been raised so that those, like Coach Yow, who lost their fights, did not do so in vain.

Hundreds of people are expected to show up to GHS tomorrow to participate in this amazing event. Pride journalist Tatiana Eason is one of them. Her reason for doing so, as you will read below, is personal.

I can still picture the small house that we lived in — how when I came home from school, I could smell what she was cooking for dinner.

I can still see her sitting on her chair and saying, “Hello, Baby. How was school?”

I remember how she would make me laugh when I was having a bad day — how she always seemed to bring smiles to my face when I needed it.

I miss those things now that she’s gone.

Because like so many people touched by cancer, I relive the moment that I heard about my grandmother’s passing. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. Just writing this makes me really emotional.

To me, Melanie Holmes was more than a woman who was born in October 23, 1955 — a Dillard High School graduate and somebody who obtained her secretary license. She was like a second mother to me. She was the only person I could talk to about the really hard stuff I was going through, like depression. She was there for me when my mother couldn’t be because she was always on drugs. She was something special — something I can’t ever replace.

That moment I knew that she passed away made my whole world crash. She was my role model. So the day we went to see her in a casket, I went through so many emotions.

People told me to keep my head up and that everything would be OK, but the real truth behind it all was that I was never going to be OK. I was in tears. My life was torn into pieces. I wouldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. My mother kept doing what she was doing and I was alone, in my own little world. In many ways, I still am.

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But I have another reason to come to the “Pink Out” Thursday night. It’s not just to remember — and mourn — my grandmother again, but to fight alongside my other grandmother, Laura Fuller. Thankfully, she’s still with us today, but she’s fighting the same disease. She has always been beside me, since I was little, so tomorrow night, I’ll be beside her.

I believe that my other grandmother will be there, too — in spirit. And hopefully, when I graduate, my grandma will see me from Heaven. I want to make her proud. And I want to feel that same warm feeling I used to get when she was smiling when I would come through the door.

Everybody touched by cancer has their own story and none of them are exactly the same. Nobody saw what I saw. I saw a bright light that will always push away the shadows that I used to get when I was younger and nobody can ever take that away from me — not as long as I live — and no one could ever replace her.

I hope to see all of you at the “Pink Out” so that we can raise enough money to end breast cancer once and for all. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through. And I want my grandma to know that I won’t stop fighting until I honor her memory by doing my part to put an end to all the pain this disease causes.

Gimmee an “H-I-S-T-O-R-Y!”

By ARYIANAH KING

You saw them during football games last fall — standing on the sidelines hyping up the home crowd. Lately, they’ve been on the bleachers in the gymnasium a few times a week — their voices booming over charged up fans that have turned out to watch Goldsboro High School’s highly ranked basketball team.

But this March, the GHS Cheerleading Team needs our support. For the first time in school history, the ladies made it to Nationals.

Principal Marcia Manning said it’s been “a long time coming for the cheerleaders” and added she was “very happy to see these young ladies progress this far.” But nobody is more proud than their coach, Bethany Stewart.

“These ladies have come a long way, from arguments to injuries, and I am really proud,” she said.

The young ladies on the squad are, too.

Senior Erika Zapata said she was “really excited about Nationals” and feels like “it would be an amazing experience for me.”

“We’ve finally made it,” she said, wearing her signature smile.

And Selena Morales said she is trying to remain focused on doing the best job she can.

“I’m not really nervous,” she said. “I don’t get nervous until I get into the feels of being there. Then, I quickly realize that it’s actually happening and that it’s my reality.”

Makayla Rackley noted just how long a road it’s been for her and her teammates to get to the biggest competition of their lives.

“I’ve been cheering since seventh grade and I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity to compete with everyone,” she said. “It’s a big deal.”

But in order to make it to Nationals — the event will be held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, March 16-17 — the team needs US to be on THEIR sideline for a change.

The ladies have held several fundraisers since they qualified for Nationals, but they are still several thousand dollars short, so a GoFundMe campaign is happening to help offset the cost of hotel and registration fees and travel expenses. To help the team realize its dream — and to see another positive Goldsboro High School story written into the history books, click on this sentence.

And if you want to see just who you would be supporting, come check them out Thursday night during the GHS basketball program’s Senior Night. They’ll be there for the crowd. They always are. Seems like now would be a pretty good time for us to repay the favor.

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Star-studded homecoming

By JHAZMINE LASSITER, ANIYAH SOLOMON and BROOKLYN VAUGHN

When he attended Goldsboro High School, he wore letters in football and wrestling. When he came back home earlier this month, he brought two stars with him. Retired Maj. Gen. Al Aycock showed up at GHS Jan. 12 to speak with our JROTC students about his life and to pass along some advice.

But Aycock wasn’t the only distinguished visitor in the house. Two Medal of Honor recipients, Specialist Five James McCloughan and Col. Joe Marm, shared their stories, too.

Marm, a Wayne County resident, earned the military’s highest honor Nov. 14, 1965, during a firefight along Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley, in which he nearly died while single-handedly destroying an enemy machine-gun position and dozens of enemy fighters. McCloughan’s medal was earned in the same war several years later when, after being wounded multiple times and treating his own injuries, he refused evacuation during a battle near Tam Ky.

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Aycock said he was honored to share the stage with two American heroes and was very proud to come back to the city he loves so dearly to speak to some of the young men and women who could one day join the service. And he talked about overcoming adversity — how while growing up, he had a stutter that he wouldn’t let get in his way because of all of the things he wanted to accomplish.

His speech impediment wasn’t the only challenge he faced. He also grew up living with his grandmother who only had an eighth-grade education. But she helped motivate her grandson and is one of the reasons he prevailed against all odds.

After he spoke, students from the JROTC had a chance to ask him — and Marm and McCloughan — about their time in the military and the challenges that they faced while on duty.

One student asked what Aycock’s goal was when he joined the military.

“To survive!” he replied, before giving the cadets some advice on the subject of goals.

Aycock told the students that they should never stop setting goals — that they should always work hard and never give up on anything they want to accomplish. And he, Marm, and McCloughan were honest with the students about their failures. Each said they have failed before because they are human. But they also explained to the students that you can’t dwell on your setbacks or you will never get anywhere. 

Aycock ended the hour-long visit with an ancestral quote.

“In the military we have an acronym: L.D.R.S.H.I.P. It’s Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal courage. The most important one of those is respect to me,” he said. “It’s respect because respect makes everything else work. You can’t be loyal to something you don’t respect. You won’t perform your duty for something you don’t respect, and you can’t provide your selfless service for something you don’t respect. If we all respected each other more this would be a greater country and a greater place. But mostly for leaders in the ROTC unit, when you respect the people around you they respect you back.”

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Almost famous

Members of the Goldsboro High School Fire Academy are on the brink of national fame thanks to Caterpillar, as the company was on campus today filming a commercial that will be used early next year in its national advertising campaign, “Be Unstoppable.”

GHS was chosen after a nationwide search for firefighters with compelling stories. GHS’ own Andrew Cabrera was identified as one of them and spent the better part of the afternoon leading his students while the film crew was rolling.

Those who want more information about the CAT Rugged Phones campaign can search social media sites using #BeUnstoppable. And for those, like us, who can’t wait to see our students and teacher in the spotlight, the commercial is set for a late-January 2018 release.

For more on this story as it develops, follow the Pride.

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When kindness takes flight

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Goldsboro High School math teacher Kyree Bethel wasn’t looking for attention. He just wanted to do something nice for a student who comes into his classroom every morning.

But when the GHS Pride crew heard that Bethel was going to give a pair of Air Jordan basketball shoes to a young man who has always dreamed about lacing up those particular sneakers, we wanted to document the moment.

Justin, the student on the receiving end, didn’t disappoint. His reaction brought many in the room to tears.

“Jordans,” he said, his lips giving way to a wide smile. “Size twelve.”

But those of us who witnessed the moments that followed — Justin kicking off his shoes and lacing up his new black and red Jordans — weren’t the only ones with tears in our eyes. Bethel choked up, too.

“It was unreal. It leaves you speechless,” he told the Pride. “It really was touching. I couldn’t look at him but for so long because I didn’t want to tear up.”

So what prompted this random act of kindness?

“Justin’s a good guy, man. I know despite everything he goes through, he still comes to school with a smile on his face,” Bethel said. “He comes into my room every day and he always asks me about my shoes.”

But Bethel understands that Justin might never be able to afford a pair of his own. And he knows that because of his pre-teaching experience as a semi-pro basketball player who played overseas, students across GHS know him as the guy who can ball — and the guy who has an amazing collection of Jordans. So he seized the opportunity to give back.

“My main thing is wanting to making a difference in somebody’s life, so I figured he can have his first pair of Jordans from me,” Bethel told the Pride. “I know that’s something that kid will never forget. He’ll remember this for the rest of his life.”

But the moving moment was not only confined to Bethel’s classroom. The Pride posted a video of Justin’s reaction on the GHS­_Cougars Twitter feed and the post went viral. And then, the unthinkable happened. Michael Jordan’s verified Twitter account commented underneath the video.

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Bethel is still floored that a seemingly small act of kindness has taken so many people aback. But he’s glad it did.

“I didn’t know it would get that far, but I’m glad it did,” he said. “It’s a blessing to me, to GHS, and to Justin and his family. I was fortunate enough to be able to give back. For it to blow up like this, it’s a wonderful feeling.”

Board approval

Story by KORRIE MCEACHERN and JULIAN LUCAS; Photos by KYLA GREENFIELD and SHY FRANKLIN

Two local politicians took time out of their busy schedules to visit Goldsboro High School this week to witness the many positive programs that exemplify who our students really are.

Wayne County Commissioners John Bell and Edward Cromartie began their visit by sitting in on our journalism class, and then spoke to the JROTC. Later, as they walked the halls, they said they were very excited about what they had witnessed — including several Communities Supporting Schools mentors meeting with their mentees in the Media Center.

“I was very excited about what I saw here today,” Bell told the Pride, adding that the community should appreciate the historic value of GHS.

He has been on the board since 2000, and during his seventeen-plus years of service to the county was, at one point, its chairman. Bell also served in the Air Force from 1953-1973 and, in his free time, loves to play the guitar.

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I’m very excited about what I saw here today.” — County Commissioner John Bell

Cromartie, who has been spotted at several GHS basketball games since his visit to the school, is newer to the board. He was elected in 2013 after a career in education that saw him teach in Cumberland County, serve as a principal, assistant principal and athletic director, and take on a role with the State Department of Public Instruction.

He, too, was impressed by what he saw — particularly how “the student population … is very respectful” — and told the Pride he was anxious to tell his fellow commissioners that what he experienced at GHS was far different than the negative things they might have read or heard about our school.

“I’m so impressed by the quiet learning environment,” he said. “The students should be proud of their school.”

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