Monday October 23, 2023

Education, Manners, and Etiquette Above All Else

So many of our young people overcome tremendous obstacles on a daily basis and their inspirational stories are rarely heard. Sometimes they have support from family and sometimes they don’t. Many times they receive support from partners in the community. Something they always have is support from their schools and teachers.

This is the story of Oklahoma City Public Schools graduate Leshawn Webb. I met him a few weeks ago when I spoke to the President’s Leadership Class at Oklahoma City Community College. I’ve had the honor to speak to this group for twelve consecutive years and the topic has always been the same – emotional intelligence. Leshawn approached me after class to ask me how to grow in the area of social awareness. He shared that he was an engineering major and he wanted to be the kind of engineer that also had good social skills. No offense to any engineers, but Lashawn showed a great deal of emotional intelligence just by noticing this is a gap for some engineers! I told him that asking me the question proved he was well on his way.

Leshawn grew up in the area of northeast OKC called Culbertson East Highlands. He attended Dunbar Elementary, Marcus Garvey Leadership Charter Middle School and Douglass High School, where he graduated in 2019 as Valedictorian. After graduation he joined the Navy Reserves because he saw the opportunities and experience being part of the Seabees could provide.

Lashawn was raised by his grandparents and says his grandma was the most influential figure he had growing up. She stressed education, manners and etiquette above all else.

He is studying Mechanical Engineering and is an Undergraduate Engineer Intern at the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. He is a member of Students Connecting with Mentors for Success, led by Bryan Dickens and TRIO, a program designed for first generation, low income students, led by Crystal Muhammed. He is the first in his family to attend college and credits these programs for helping alleviate some of the stress in what is still a brand new world.

He’s had challenges adjusting to the academic load, and at times wondered if engineering was right for him. He compared himself to other students who seemed to be breezing through while he was struggling. His advisor gave him support and he wisely taught himself the very adult lesson that comparison is the greatest thief of joy.

Now that he is halfway through his associate’s degree completion, with plans to move to a 4- year university next, he is proud that he’s staying the course. He remembers the times he wanted to quit because life threw him a curveball and is grateful to everyone who has been in his corner encouraging him to keep going.

Leshawn’s story isn’t finished. In fact, life is just beginning for this bright young man. Because life happens, there are likely still some curveballs headed his way. One thing is certain though – his drive and motivation will get him a long way. His education, etiquette and manners will get him the rest of the way.

–Mary Mélon-Tully, President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.

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