I am a clergyman

I am a clergyman. I am an assistant pastor at my church and that’s what drives me – my spiritual beliefs. My religion advises me to go forward, makes me excited to see a new day each day. I’ve been a clergyman since 2001. I get excited to have older people confide in you and you can pray with them. When things turn around for the better, they come and thank you. Just spending time and showing deep concern for them is great.

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I really like school because we learn

I really like school because we learn.

What kinds of things do you learn?

We learn… I know math a lot.

Is that your favorite thing to do?

Well, my favorite thing to do is to do pluses. And I’m REALLY good at pluses.

You are? What is two plus two?

Four!

What about three plus zero?

Three.

I can’t trick you. What else do you like about school?

I like that we learn how to read books. We always get new books and we read with Ms. Valet.

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I like the fun in reading

I like the fun in reading and the fun in math. My teacher makes math really fun for us. She tells us fun things like: “The yellow duck has three sisters. They are pink. How many ducks does that equal?” It’s four because there is one yellow one and three pink ones.

And I like to read. I read at home because it helps me a lot. Outside of school, I like to read and I like to do my own kind of math. Like I do hard problems that my dad helps me with and my mom helps me with reading if I get stuck on a word.

I like to be active. I’m going to start doing karate soon. My next door neighbor – she’s my babysitter and she teaches it. And one of my Girl Scouts friends is coming to karate too. I like to do arts and crafts. I have books that tell me what I can do. You make a picture frame with sticks, and you can paint a picture of the ocean or of leaves falling down.

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I want to become a pastor

It’s been a dream of mine to become a pastor. That’s what I’m going to school for. That’s all I want to do.

It was a calling and I answered the calling to become a pastor. All these years I said I wanted to become a pastor and I stuck with it. I stuck with it. So now I’m going to college for it. I’m either going to go to Liberty University or, where I’ve been accepted, I have a scholarship to Duke University. And also, I got a recommendation letter from Eastern University. They want me to come visit.

What do you hope people will take away from hearing you as a pastor?

I hope they’ll take away peace and love. Peace, love and kindness. Peace is very important so you won’t have a lot stress. And you have to be kind to others if they are kind to you, and love one another. Those are very important. And forgiveness, that is very, very important. You have to forgive people, even if they have done wrong to you. You have to forgive them. Even if you don’t, you know, that bad feeling is going to go along with you to the next person you become friends with. You’re not going to have a close bond with that friend because you didn’t forgive that last person who did wrong to you.

Have you ever thought of doing anything else if you couldn’t be a pastor?

A lawyer.

Why a lawyer?

Well, I talk A LOT. I talk A LOT.

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Football has been my love

I play football. It’s been my love. I’ve played it since I was 5. I have three older brothers. They all played it. My dad pushed me a lot. It’s something that we all did. I guess it just passes down. Two of them are in college playing right now.

What do you like about playing football?

It’s a good outlet for stress. I’m in my zone. I’m not really thinking about anything else when I’m playing.

I want to graduate high school with an advanced diploma and go to college. I have scholarships from George Mason, Clemson and Liberty. I’ll go to college for four years, and I’ve been thinking about – well, my grandad wants me to go into the military, do that for four to 10 years, become a veteran and then go into the Merchant Marine. That’s what my grandad and my dad do. It’s either that or the NFL. I’ve got a little bit of time left.

Do you have a favorite team in the playoffs or is your team out?

I’m a Giants fan. I’m from New York. That’s my team.

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I want to be a preacher

So around 2009, I came along and my dad had started preaching at this church. I didn’t know what it meant, but one day I went in my room and I shut the door and I just started saying random things. My parents were downstairs and they were like, “What is he doing?” Then, when they came in the room, they realized I had all my stuffed animals in front of me and I was the one up on the stairs. They realized I was trying to preach.

I knew I wanted to be a preacher since I was like 3.

Why do you want to be a preacher?

It kind of sounds like a little fun to say things about what God has done for you.

What has God done for you at this young age?

Put food on our table and clothes on our body and shelter.

What would your message be as a preacher?

It might be: That was then, this is now. Like, that was back then and now is now.

And, people should treat others like they want to be treated.

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I love working with the kids

I have been working for VBCPS Food Services for 12 years but I’ve always worked in food. I was at Panera for like 8 years. I was a manager of the deli/bakery department of a grocery store for maybe 20 years.

Actually, I love working with the kids. That’s my No. 1 thing. I don’t have any kids, so I have 330 kids here at Creeds. And they are my kids. They come in and it’s the highlight of my day. There’s nothing better than walking down the hall and having a little kid come up and say, “Miss Debby!” And they hug you.

What do you hope students take away from their time in the cafeteria?

Eating healthy. Even more so, it’s important to me for them to use their manners when they come in. Every day when they come in and each kid comes through the line, they have to say, “Good morning Miss Debby. My name is…I would like…” They’ve done really well with that. They’re awesome.

We do different things. We have to do something with football coming up. Last year we had the Food Superbowl – vegetables versus fruit. They would come in and I would ask them, “Apples or bananas? What’s your favorite?” That was the playoff week. It was really fun.

For Valentine’s we might do heart healthy food. They have to do something to participate into the lunchroom décor. I have them color something and hang it up. Especially if they come in with their parents, it’s so exciting. We have snowmen up now. They ask, “Where’s my picture? Where’s my snowman?”

We do four or five different things each year. We’ll do something for Father’s Day. And I have a bulletin board where I put amazing facts – like, how many kernels are on a cob.

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I like to play softball

When it’s March or April, I start softball. I started last year so this will be my second season. I didn’t really like it at first because I would be so scared to go up and hit. My legs would be, like, literally shaking. I could feel it.

I did tee-ball when I was younger and then I was old enough to start playing softball. I was nervous at first and after a few games, I got better and better. I made the All-Star team. We won all our All-Star games and our championship game.

Do your knees still shake?

My knees still shake, but we have these cheers that we yell. It’s like we’re helping each other.

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We help each other

We help each other. We’re in the same reading and math group, so me and him work together on a lot of things.

Yes, when one of us needs help, one of us will help the other. If we’re both having trouble, we keep thinking and work it through together.

Do you have a favorite subject?

My favorite subject is math. I got a 600 on my math SOL. Usually in math group I don’t get to answer a lot of questions because she knows if I answer it, I’ll just go on and on and on trying to answer more questions. Some other people don’t always get math, so that’s why me and him help others. If a student is having trouble, we help talk them through it.

I like math also. Like he said, when someone doesn’t understand, we help others. We pep talk them to get through it and understand it.

You should take our photo by the “SOLVE” sign because that’s what we do.

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I’m an ABC Buddy

I’m an ABC Buddy for a kindergartner. It’s kind of like a tutor. We help them with their ABCs. There’s like this packet of letters and they have to trace them and say the letters. We do it every day in the morning before the announcements.

One day my buddy got through all of his ABCs. When we started he could barely get to H.

What’s your secret to helping him?

I don’t know. I just say, “If you want to get better, we need to practice more.” When he graduates from his ABCs, we’ll work on reading.

We just celebrated New Year’s. Do you have any resolutions or did you set any goals?

To get my ABC buddy to graduate. That would be pretty good.

What do you enjoy doing outside of school?

Fishing. This Christmas break we went offshore. I went with my grandpa and my brother. We got there early in the morning, and it was like pitch black and we were going on the waves. It took about an hour and 30 minutes to get where we were going. We caught a lot of fish that day – black sea bass and spiny dogfish. I had the same piece of sea bass and I caught like five dogfish on it.

Why do you like fishing?

Because my grandpa loves it. The first time I went on a boat was when I was 3 years old. We went out 11 miles. I like when it’s flat and we go 30 miles per hour. That’s really fast for a boat. That’s like all the way down.

And my dad works for the fire department in Portsmouth. I remember when I was young we would go to the firehouse and we would ride the fire trucks around the neighborhood. We would put on his fire clothes and they would be too big.

Last night he worked all night and came home just in time to take me to the bus stop because it was so cold.

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I like to draw

I’m really proud because of the scores I get on Achieve – when I get 100s. My partner in class has been helping me a bit and I’ve been helping him. I feel very happy and motivated when I do well.

Your principal says you’ve worked really hard to become a stellar student.

I am just really paying attention to the teacher and having fun.

What do you like to do when you’re not at school?

I like to draw. I draw every day. Sometimes I draw in the morning when I’m at school, sometimes I draw at lunch, and I draw at home. Sometimes I just draw random things or random people. Sometimes I just draw, like, food – like, pizza and stuff. I think it’s just fun to doodle and I think it’s pretty. I like to show my friends.

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I really love to play sports

Mr. Wiggins referred to it as “a winter white precipitation.” He didn’t want to jinx it, so he referred to it as a winter white precipitation.

What do you think about the snow that’s coming our way?

I like snow. All my family doesn’t like it, but I love snow. I like to just run around in it. My family doesn’t really like the snow because it’s cold and gets all over stuff.

I would like a couple inches of snow but not 53 inches of snow! Maybe four or five inches.

What else do you like to do when it’s not snowing?

Outside of school, I just really love to play sports and hang out with my family. I love to play sports. Every season, I can’t go without playing one sport. It’s just like, it’s a habit and a hobby. Like, I need to do it or else I won’t survive. I love to be active.

My favorite sport? Umm, it would be between baseball and football. Oh, I forgot one – basketball! I’m playing basketball right now for Creeds.

I do have a favorite baseball team. I like the Washington Nationals. I know Mrs. Conger is not a fan. She likes the Cardinals. We’re in the same division, so we have rivals. I do go up to Washington, D.C. two times a year to watch four games. I see two games each visit. And it’s hot up there – WAY hotter than here.

Are the Nats going to win it all this year?

It’s the D.C. curse! Every D.C. team goes to the playoffs and loses in the second round. The Washington Nationals haven’t won a ring since, I’m pretty sure it’s like 1976, when they were the Washington Senators. It was a LONG time ago.

I also like music because I do like to sing, and I like just music in general. I’ve always liked music. In the car, I jam out to the radio.

I’m in chorus. A lot of people auditioned for chorus and a bunch of students made chorus. Mrs. Alexander made a conclusion on who was going to be the assistant director. It means, like, if she isn’t there and she needed them to do something, they’d do it. And I got assistant director. When it happened, I was about to clap because I thought somebody else was going to get it. And then she said my name, and I was like, “Whoa!”

It sounds like you were surprised. Why do think she picked you?

I WAS surprised. I mean, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about why she picked me and I feel like it was from leadership. I mean…I don’t…it was just surprising.

I have had to be in that role once so far. Mrs. Alexander had to go with fourth-graders to the senior center to sing. It was only for like 10 minutes but I still had to teach and do the warm ups. I definitely felt like a leader. It was definitely breathtaking on how I could do that.

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I don’t give up easily

At Parkway Elementary we have a drumline. I’ve been in it since I was in third grade. The drumline is awesome because we get to learn new things. I get to learn to be faster in my movement. I enjoy teaching the little kids some stuff that I know about the drumline and drumming. I used to drum when I was pretty small too.

What lessons do you share with younger students?

Sometimes, when one of them wants to give up, I just talk to them, hug them, show them love and they keep on going. That’s something about me – I don’t give up easily. I have grit and I keep on trying to do my best in everything I do. And I push myself, too, to do great things.

Your principal tells me you are a leader in the school. What does it mean to be a leader?

A leader should be responsible. You care for things. You have to have great behavior and teach other people how to be great. Like in school, for instance, don’t be bad. Always be good because you also represent your parents too.

It keeps me going when people call me a leader. I have this feeling of happiness when people say that, so I keep on going.

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I want to be a pediatric cardiologist

I’m part of the Math and Science Academy here at Ocean Lakes, and for our capstone we have to complete a project. Over the summer I attended a course at Virginia Wesleyan University where I earned four credit hours of college credit. At the end of that I met with a bunch of university administrators and they ended up offering me almost a full ride. I would only have to pay like $2,000. I was like: Wow! That’s like canaries just singing to me. I just found out that I was accepted into their Honors College, so I am completing the application for the Honors College over the break.

What are you planning to study in college?

They just installed a new building at Virginia Wesleyan called the Greer Environmental Sciences Building, and it’s beautiful. We are so fortunate to be the first class in that building. I have a really high interest in biology so I plan on studying that there, and then they have a program with EVMS for pre-med. I want to be, hopefully one day, a pediatric cardiologist. I will hopefully go to EVMS and continue studying.

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I love Star Wars

My birthday is January 1. I am a New Year’s baby. My birthday is really close to Christmas, so I get presents and then no presents for a little while and then presents again.

What I’m really interested about is Star Wars. I love Star Wars! I mean, I watch every part and I’m not scared. I heard about Part 8 and I’m going to see Part 8. It’s called “The Last Jedi.” One of the guys wanted Rey to be a bad guy, but Rey said “no.” The same thing happened to Luke with Darth Vader. They both didn’t fall for it. Only Darth Vader fell for it and he turned into a bad guy.

I pretty much LOVE Star Wars. It’s like my favorite movie. It’s kind of weird. I’m scared of princess movies but nobody laughs at me for that. Well, I’m not scared of all princess movies, just some of them. But not Star Wars, I love Star Wars!

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I love to study the Titanic

I shaved my head to support my uncle. He has cancer. He lost his hair because of the medicine.

What do you love about your uncle?

I love that I have his name is my middle name because we used to do everything with each other. That’s how I got the sweet little name, Julian. That’s his name and my middle name. But we call him “Baba” because my mother used to call him “brother,” so I tried to say “brother” and I said “Baba.” It was my first word!

But I really want to tell you about the Titanic because it sunk on my birthday, April 15. I love to study the Titanic. My friend Sawyer, in my first-grade class, told me about it and I got interested in it. I read lots of books about it. There were only 20 lifeboats.

What else have you learned?

It sunk on the East coast of Canada in the Atlantic Ocean. Over 705 people survived, and then there’s like 1,552 who died – women, children and men. And it has these two sister ships, I mean, actually three: Olympic, Britannic and Lusitania. And the Britannic and Lusitania got hit by German torpedoes in World War I. The Olympic made it.

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Buying gifts for others

What I’m really excited about this Christmas…I got my first job recently, so I can actually buy Christmas gifts for my family. I’m used to just receiving gifts and sometimes I feel bad about it, so this year I have the chance to go out and give Christmas gifts.

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

I run track, and right now it’s indoor season. So, New Year’s is kind of my time to build myself up to where I need to be for track season. I’m a sprinter, so for outdoor track I’m mainly a 400 runner. But when it comes to indoor, I kind of do everything.

All of the women in my family have run track. I got into it in sixth grade and I was like, “Wow! I love it.” It’s a stress reliever, especially with doing all that I do in high school. When I’m stressed out, I can go and run and release that stress.

I want to run in college. I’ve applied to five colleges and have gotten into two so far – with a lot of scholarship money, so I’m thankful for that. So, I’m just waiting to hear from a couple more and I’ll figure out where I want to go.

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I love Ocean Lakes

This is my 18th year working at Ocean Lakes. I spent one year volunteering here with the PTA before I started working here. I love Ocean Lakes. This is a fantastic place. The people are the most important thing. They work really hard to make sure every student feels welcome and important.

What are your plans for winter break?

We usually go someplace warm at Christmastime. My parents lived in St. Kitts for 25 years so that’s where it began. We would go down and visit them because they weren’t coming back here. Consequently, two of my girls got married down there because they just feel a part of that island community. We’ve been going there for maybe 15 years, but lately we’ve been exploring new islands. One year we went to Portugal because one of my daughters was in Africa and we had to try to get someplace close to her.

We love St. Kitts but we also like St. Lucia. We are going to retire there, I think. We have a couple more years to work though.

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I really like to cook

Something my family has done over the holidays…since the new Star Wars movies have been coming out, we go around 10 p.m. Christmas Eve. We stand in line and watch the movie and then, when we get out, it’s Christmas Day – it’s past midnight and kicks off Christmas for us. It first started because we needed to give my mom time to wrap the presents, so my dad would have us out of the house. We watched the movie, I guess it was like three years ago, and now we’ve been doing it ever since. So now I have to try and dodge all the spoilers because everyone here likes Star Wars.

Other than that, I really like to cook. That’s my thing. My mom said, “You have free reign. You can make whatever.” I don’t have as much time to cook as I did in the summer, so now I just do dinners. Over the winter break I’m going to try and make cinnamon rolls, and I think we’re going to try and do prime rib one night. We always try to do one fancy dinner during break. Then I’ll probably just make a lot of bread, because that’s what I have been working on.

Where do you get your passion for cooking?

It started off when my grandma moved over here. All my family is on the West coast, so when she moved over here we spent a lot of time together. I was really into eating the food. So I just stuck around my grandma because she would give me food as she cooked. Eventually I said, “What’s that? How do you do that?” And that’s kind of how it started.

I cook for my family every night. My mom doesn’t cook anymore. We’re trying to teach my little brother because when I go to college, my mom has told him he has to learn how to cook because she is not cooking. I was trying to show him how to make ramen noodles. “You boil the water and then you put the packet in, and that’s it.” He thought he was going to mess it up. I told him there’s no way you can.

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Gift of giving

They know we’re going to be here at Seatack around a certain time each year, but they don’t know when it’s going to happen. Students were saying the other day that they were so excited, wondering when it was going to happen.

When they get off the bus, their initial reaction is just that they are so happy. We’re excited to see all of this work come together and to see this huge gift of giving. That’s really my favorite part of the holidays.

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This event is dear to my heart

I’m in Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow and I’m working with a third-grade teacher here, so this event is very close and dear to my heart. A lot of these of these kids don’t have Christmas presents so this is their only Christmas present. We spent $4,000 at Target this year, and we got all of them a big Christmas present, a smaller present and they get a bag with food in it.

We’re also here to interact with the students. I know one student whose dad is in jail and she didn’t talk to her mom all weekend. So, we’re here to talk to the kids and give hugs. Last year, a student came crying to Mrs. Spruill because she hadn’t said thank you to Santa, so she took her to say thank you to him. She told Santa: I thought you hated me because you don’t come to my house. It’s moments like that that really show us that we’re here for a reason.

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I enjoy children’s books

I will have been here 18 years in January. I started full-time as a general assistant then I moved to special education. I did that for a year and I’ve been in the library ever since. We have a new librarian this year. She’s wonderful.

What do you like about your work?

I like seeing the children the most. I like to read. I enjoy children’s books, so I like to work with them. I like talking with them. They’re always happy to come in the library. They’re usually happy to com ein and spend time with us. We see the younger children as a class and they’re always fun.

What are some of the children’s books that are among your favorites?

Oh, quite a few. I love Candace Fleming. She writes “Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!” which is one of my favorites. I like the “Click Clack Cow.” I like Kevin Henkes.

The holidays are near. Do you have any favorite holiday traditions?

Mainly my tradition is the angel tree. I do adopt a student. My children are all grown now and live scattered, so I still like to buy toys and things like that. That’s how I get my joy, is doing that.

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Helping Puerto Rico

For part of my winter break, my sister, mom and I are all going to Puerto Rico. It’s not a vacation. We’re going down to help the side of the island that hasn’t been given as much help because it’s more rural. We’re helping in a medical clinic. My mom and I have done the clinic before in Appalachia. While we were there, we basically helped run people around because neither one of us have any medical training. We also had a friend who was running a lab there and we were checking people in. This organization is phenomenal. It’s called RAM – Remote Area Medical. They took over a fairground and they had every single department there that you’d have in a hospital. They had orthopedics. They had a lab to get tests done. They were giving dental care. They were making eyeglasses on the spot. Now they have a clinic down in Puerto Rico and we’re very excited to help. We’re just going for one week but they’ve had a clinic there for a month.

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