Students from Miami Law's Center for Ethics and Public Service recently joined members of the Carver Alumni Association to honor Mona Bethel Jackson, a pioneering educator who has devoted her long career to the wellbeing and progress of thousands of South Florida students.
The occasion was the Carver Alumni Association's Fifth Annual Hall of Fame Award and Alumni Day, which took place at George Washington Carver Middle School in Coconut Grove and included a lively roll call of all of the graduating classes since 1936. Alumni mingled effortlessly as they commemorated some of the teachers and staff members who had affected their lives during and after attending Carver.
Law students from CEPS' Historic Black Church Program Oral History Project attended the event to film the occasion and record the recollections of the Carver alumni for a documentary, as yet untitled, that focuses on Carver from its inception to its integration. The film – made in collaboration with the Coconut Grove Ministerial Alliance, Ransom Everglades School and the University of Miami School of Communication – features a number of great African-American figures who attended Carver and went on to leave an enormous impact on the Coconut Grove Community and the nation. CEPS will host the premiere of the documentary on April 5 at 6 p.m. at Carver Middle School, 4901 Lincoln Drive.
Alexa Diambois, a second-year law student and an Oral History Fellow in CEPS' Historic Black Church Program, said the Carver Alumni Association's event "was significant because after integration many of these students felt displaced and unwanted, but years later, they have the opportunity to come back to the school that was their safe haven and celebrate the legacy that they began there."
CEPS' Historic Black Church Program Oral History Project uses filmed documentaries to compile historical archives for church congregations and ministries. Students conduct videotaped interviews with congregants and ministers, edit the film, and organize panel discussions. Two earlier films focused on the history of the West Grove and the West Grove churches.
The speech that introduced Dr. Jackson at the Carver Alumni Association event noted that she was born in Coconut Grove, of Bahamian ancestry, and graduated from George Washington Carver High School in 1965. Dr. Jackson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at Florida A & M University and a Master of Education degree in Guidance and Counseling at Florida Atlantic University. In 2005 she graduated from Florida International University with a Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision.
An educator for more than 39 years – 17 of those years as a school principal – Dr. Jackson was the first African-American to serve as President of the Florida Counseling Association and also the first African-American to serve as Principal of Redland Middle School. In 2003, she was named the Miami-Dade County Public Schools' Principal of the Year. She was also named Middle School Administrator of the Year by the Dade Counseling Association. The Florida Department of Education recognized her for Outstanding Leadership with the Principal Achievement Award. The Dade County Council of the PTA/PTSA recognized her as Principal of the Year, with the Paul Bell Award.
However, the achievement of which Dr. Jackson is most proud in all her years as an educator was that she was able take Richmond Heights Middle School from a C grade to an A on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. While serving as principal there, Dr. Jackson co-authored a book with her students, Candlelights for the Middle School Student's World, about their response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
None of these achievements are surprising when one considers that Dr. Jackson's star began to shine while still a student at Carver, where she served as Student Government President in 1964 and was named a runner-up for The Miami Herald's Silver Knight award for Citizenship for 1965. She was also one of two finalists from Miami in the first year of the National Merit Scholarship program to recognize outstanding African-American students.
Anyone wishing to attend the April 5 premiere of the documentary may send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.