Black History Month: Local student council presidents talk today’s leaders

Published 12:13 am Saturday, February 1, 2020

February is Black History Month and The Port Arthur News is celebrating the kickoff of a month long celebration by speaking with the future leaders of tomorrow on the leaders of today.

The News is publishing stories each week this month highlighting local African American leaders.

Student council presidents from Memorial, Nederland, Port Neches-Groves and Bob Hope high schools were asked what African American leaders or everyday citizens they look up to and why.

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Nederland Student Council President Will Denson selected Henry Musoma, a business professor at Texas A&M who is widely known for his debut on Ellen in 2017. A video of Musoma rocking a 10-month-old baby during a class went viral on the Internet after he insisted on helping babysit the child so his mother, a senior college student, would not miss a lecture.

Denson said through his position as student council president, he was able to attend Texas A&M’s Student Leaders of Tomorrow Conference last year, where he met Musoma face to face.

“[Musoma] did a leadership event at the conference in April 2019, and I thought he was a really cool guy,” Denson said. “His speech was on overall being a good leader, how to be friendly to other people even if you don’t know them or think you don’t have to.”

During the lecture, Denson said he kept a journal to reference certain talking points in his own leadership speeches.

“He didn’t harp on the things that made him known on the campus,” he said. “He talked about his passion on doing whatever it takes to make students better, more successful and happy. I thought that was incredible.

“As a senior in high school, we often hear a lot how college professors don’t really care about individuals and whether we succeed or not, but here was someone who did care. I want to be like that.”

Denson said the biggest thing he took away from the experience was how make leadership personal, how to connect and to be kind, strong and selfless in his everyday roles.

Port Neches-Groves Student Council President Kristen Crippen selected Port Neches Middle School secretary Marjorie Broussard. Crippen said she looks up to Broussard’s attitude toward life and her ability to connect with students.

“She’s very funny,” Crippen said. “She’s always ready with a comeback. She’s very sassy but she cares deeply about all of her students. I remember one of my brothers who goes to school there, Cayce, would come home as an office aide with all these stories about her.

“I respect her very much and I want to keep and earn her respect. She is one of my favorite people to go and visit. She’s always a bright face to see and is always welcoming.”

Crippen said in her many leadership roles on her own campus, she thinks to Broussard and how to be a positive light.

“Every time someone walks into a room, she greets them from administration to a regular student,” she said. “She respects everybody above and below her, and makes everyone feel important. That’s how I want to be.”

Bob Hope senior president Vicky Longoria said Fred Vernon is an African American local leader that she looks up to in her community.

Fred Vernon owns KLV Ventures, a transportation company in Port Arthur that employs more than 100 full-time workers and operates over 17 18-wheelers.

“I look up to Fred Vernon because of the impression he left when he came to speak at my school,” Longoria said. “His background story stayed with me because of how relatable it is. Many of us in the community do not come from money. We have to work for what we have. He took pride in where he came from and where he is now.”

Longoria said he encouraged her to have her own version of success and be a true leader.

“Vernon is an encouraging and dedicated leader,” she said. “He inspires others to persevere despite the obstacles. When many of his mentors did not believe in him, he continued working hard to reach his goals. He taught me dedication, which is the greatest leadership quality I use so that I can persist until I complete the task.”

Memorial student council president Anahi Briseño said he admires Travis Elementary principal Isreal Taylor.

“Mr. Taylor was my third grade teacher at Lee Elementary, which is now Lakeview Elementary,” Briseño said. “When I was in third grade, I wasn’t really in school often due to my father being deported and having to travel back forth from Mexico. My teachers often told me I wasn’t going to pass, that I was going to fail. Mr. Taylor is the only teacher I had to look to for support.

“He always defended me, he motivated me to keep going strong in school and always told me ‘You are great’ or ‘you got this.’ He always reminded me that I was a bright student and that I was intelligent. He was there when everyone else decided to quit on me.”

Briseño said he looks up to Taylor as a leader because he is caring, always happy, smart, compassionate and patient.

“(Taylor) helped me be the student I am,” he said. “So whenever I feel down about school, I just remember him and how he always said ‘Strive for the best!’ He is a very good man to be bringing up the next generation of student leaders.”