Kent County High School Principal Kris Hemstetter and her team pose for a photo with special guests at a Black History Month assembly Wednesday, Feb. 22. From left are teacher Michelle Phillips, guests Ronnell Page, Yvng Swag, Juante Wilson, D.J. Real and Charles Harmon, Hemstetter, Paul Tue of Minary's Dream Alliance, school social worker Courtney Miller and counseling secretary Tilise Brown.
ROCK HALL — The middle and high school uplifted students last week with special guest speakers at a pair of Black History Month assemblies.
At Kent County High School on Wednesday, Feb. 22 students gathered in Trojan Arena to hear from a full slate of motivational speakers, among them celebrities and alumni Yvng Swag and Juante Wilson.
Swag, né Tyshawn Johnson, and fellow alum Juante Wilson spoke to students about dreaming big and working hard.
Wilson is an actor with credits including the television series "Law & Order" and the 2019 Chadwick Boseman movie "21 Bridges."
"You have to figure out what your path is, stick to it and never give up," Swag, a dancer, singer and actor, told students.
A nephew of Kent County High School teacher Michelle Phillips, guest speaker Ronnell Page talked about how his childhood was split between rural Colemans Corner here and urban Wilmington, Del.
Page discussed the importance of entrepreneurialism and the significance of people who were once forced to labor for others being free to launch their own ventures.
"So that sense of being free or being an entrepreneur and having multiple businesses and multiple income streams is something that is deeply rooted in the African American culture," he said.
Charles Harmon, a motivational speaker who spent 23 of his 48 years in prison, discussed the importance of finding a purpose and pursuing that.
He offered a harrowing look at his childhood growing up poor in Philadelphia and how through his time in prison he found a higher purpose in life that today includes writing and motivational speaking.
Paul Tue of Minary's Dream Alliance and Tilise Brown, the high school's counseling secretary, led students through a Black History Month trivia contest, with questions focused around the Civil Rights movement.
Tue reminded the high school students that though they may be young, they can begin to make history now.
"You can trailblaze now. You can be a trendsetter now," he said.
Swag and Wilson were both back at Kent County Middle School Friday, Feb. 24 for an assembly.
The assembly was organized by the school's Achieving Academic Equity and Excellence for Black Boys (AAEEBB) mentoring program.
Tyray Johnson, the coordinator of the AAEEBB program, is Swag's father.
Johnson opened the assembly by talking about how students need to work hard, make sacrifices and maintain their dedication to achieving their dreams.
"You have to keep pressing on. You have to keep moving forward," he said. "And most importantly of all you have to believe in yourself."
Swag and Wilson sat down with middle school teacher Desmond Hasty for individual interviews and discussions about their lives and their work.
With multiple movies premiering this year on streaming platforms, Wilson spoke about how he prepares for roles and the need to stay focused.
"If you can dream it, you can achieve it," he said.
When one student asked if Wilson thought the student had what it takes to make it, Wilson turned the question back on the student.
Wilson told the student it was more important that the student himself thought he could make it.
"If you want to be an actor, if you want to be singer, dream big and work hard," Wilson said, circling back to similar comments he told high school students two days before.
Swag spoke about how he was shy when he was younger, but it was at Kent County Middle School where he started to open up with the encouragement of students and staff.
"Middle school really was the start. This was the foundation of what started the dancing for me," he said.
Swag talked about building and maintaining confidence and a strong positive mindset, and being able to block out negativity from others.
"It takes confidence to do anything you want to do," Swag said. "You have to be confident in order to do anything, to do whatever, you know — become a policeman, a teacher, anything. You have to be confident in what you want to achieve."
Kent County High School student Cherish Johnson sings the Black National Anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in Trojan Arena, opening a Black History Month assembly Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Kent County High School teacher Michelle Phillips introduces a guest speaker at the Black History Month assembly.
Ronnell Page of Wilmington, Del. speaks to Kent County High School students about the importance of entrepreneurialism during a Black History Month assembly.
Yvng Swag performs in Trojan Arena Wednesday, Feb. 22 as part of a Black History Month assembly.
Charles Harmon talks to Kent County High School students about growing up poor in Philadelphia and turning to a life of crime at a young age. He spoke about how students need to find a greater purpose in life.
Kent County High School alum Juante Wilson tells students to work hard and dream big. Wilson is now an actor with many television and film credits to his name.
Kent County High School students compete in a Black History Month trivia contest in Trojan Arena Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Paul Tue, co-founder of the Minary's Dream Alliance youth program, tells Kent County High School students that they can make history now.
Tyray Johnson, coordinator of a mentoring program at Kent County Middle School, opens a Black History Month assembly Friday morning, Feb. 24.
Juante Wilson greets Kent County Middle School students at an assembly Friday, Feb. 24. Wilson, an actor, attended the middle school here.
Teacher Desmond Hasty interviews actor Juante Wilson as part of a Black History Month assembly at Kent County Middle School Friday, Feb. 24.
Entertainer Yvng Swag makes his entrance at a Kent County Middle School assembly Friday, Feb. 24. His father, Tyray Johnson, left, is the coordinator of the Achieving Academic Equity and Excellence for Black Boys mentoring program at the school.
Yvng Swag performs at Kent County Middle School as part of a Black History Month assembly Friday, Feb. 24.
Kent County Middle School students Ashia Davis, left, and Amari Houston show off their moves to celebrity and Kent County Public Schools alum Yvng Swag, seated on stage, during an assembly Friday, Feb. 24.