Shyly, Isaiah Gobbold walked across the stage at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School on Friday and shook hands with church leaders, his principal, Richmond County Superintendent Frank Roberson and school board members.
The Bayvale Elementary first-grader was one of about 500 Richmond County students recognized for making significant progress so far this year.
The First Nine Weeks Student Academic Recognition Day was the first such event held by the school system in an effort to promote academic and behavioral improvement among all students in the county.
“I consider this an extraordinary event for students who are making significant strides in schools across Richmond County,” said Dana Harris, the principal at Bayvale Elementary School.
She publicly recognized 10 students from her school who have improved in academics, behavior and socialization.
Harris said a large portion of her school’s population are Hispanics, some who have immigrated to Augusta from Mexico. They face unique challenges to receive an education, she said, and many of her other students see school as a safe haven from their home lives.
“I believe in their heart of hearts, they want to succeed in spite of all the obstacles they may endure outside of school,” Harris said.
Such ceremonies build self-confidence and self-esteem in students, Harris said.
Roberson said the ceremony is the brainchild of school board President Venus Cain.
“She said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate students who are making their way in the direction that we would have them go, by celebrating their success along the way,’ ” he said. “This is the beginning of something great.”
Students, teachers and parents filled the auditorium to capacity during the event. Many parents waited in the school cafeteria until their child’s school was called.
Isaiah’s mother, Sheena Clay, stood along the auditorium wall as she watched her son receive his recognition.
She said he had A’s in most subjects on his progress report, but a low grade in science. He brought it up to earn the A/B Honor Roll on his report card.
Isaiah has autism, and Clay said she wishes recognition ceremonies like this one had been in place last year.
“Every day I’m always challenging him to do your best in school and everywhere you go,” she said. “I’m very proud of him.”