Task force hosts Christmas program

Led by music teacher Rhea Skaggs, black dress, students in the Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy choir sing Christmas carols at the beginning of the annual Black on Black Crime Task Force Christmas program.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:34 p.m.

The musical talents of Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy students were on display at the annual Black on Black Crime Task Force Christmas program, which also featured a bike giveaway and the awarding of certificates to two young men who recently completed a local entrepreneurship program.

Held last Wednesday night at the John Dukes Jr. Cafeteria at the school, the event featured students from the music program at Duval, who are busy spreading holiday cheer around Gainesville.

"They have performed many times already, and I would have to say they would not be at the level they are now without the dedication and support of their parents and family," said Donna Jones, principal at Duval. "Last night, they performed at Tacachale and they performed today for our students. They also have some engagements to perform for the (Gainesville) Woman's Club."

Also, Stephon Lewis, 23, of southwest Gainesville, and Darian Woods, 20, of northwest Gainesville, were honored for successfully completing the "Paint Your Way Into Business" program, a partnership between FloridaWorks, the Gainesville Housing Authority and Santa Fe College. The three-month program provided training to public housing residents in painting and entrepreneurship so they can start their own businesses or find work in painting.

Lewis and Woods, like the other seven students who graduated from the program, received national certification in commercial painting, became certified with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and has been helped through the process of starting their own companies in Florida. However, unlike the other students, Lewis and Woods also became certified plumbers and are on their way to being certified by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.

The event ended with Dontonya Smith, an officer with the Gainesville Police Department and advisor of Police Explorer Post 917 at GPD, giving quality refurbished bikes to Duval students Kaniya Brown, first grade; Jayden Manns, second grade; Brianna Coney, third grade; Malique Hargett, fourth grade, and Tre'Shawn Washington, fifth grade.

Smith said the students were picked by assistant principal Daniel Burney and principal Jones for being "wonderful students" and having "done something exceptional."

The emcee for the night was Miguel Bean, a former Duval student who is now a junior at the Professional Academies Magnet @ Loften High School, where he is student government president and vice president of the Academy of Automotive Technology.

The program began with Rhea Skaggs, music teacher at Duval, directing the Duval choir while it sang "Away in A Manger," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Deck the Halls."

That was followed by two songs from fifth-grade violinists Deanna Williams and Antavia Woods and the piano version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" by fourth-grader Jamyria Jackson.

Kentavious Johnson played "Oh Christmas Tree" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" on the piano before joining fourth-graders Christian Bradshaw, Erneshia Pete, Demekkeia Rutlege and Emani Smith on the recorder playing "Jingle Bells."

The last performance of the night featured the choir singing "Noel" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Jones said the kids are taught that it is not about them performing, but about them "giving back to the community." She also recognized Skaggs and keyboards/violin instructor Angela Terrell for their work with the students.

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