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The holiday gifting season began a little earlier this past Wednesday for 30 C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School students. They were surprised with brand new bicycles, equipped with safety helmets and stockings full of goodies. The bicycles were courtesy of the Omicron Delta Sigma Chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., whose members surprised the students at school with the bikes on Dec. 20.
To be considered for one of the bicycles, students had to enter an essay contest run by Barnhart staff. The contest was open for students in prekindergarten through fifth grades. Barnhart’s younger students in grades prekindergarten through first grade had to draw a picture and write a brief statement on why they would like a new bike. Second through fifth graders had to submit a letter stating why they would like a new bike.
The administrative team and Barnhart school counselor Frannia Bryant reviewed all entries and chose the 30 students they thought were most deserving of a new bike. “We have been doing this for three years now. Almost the entire school entered. We have about 720 students here,” Bryant said.
One student submitted a letter in support of his brother receiving one of the bikes. Second grader Timothy Craft was one of the 30 students who received a bicycle. His mother, Tanaja Thomas, said her older son had entered the essay contest to ask for a bike for his younger brother. “His brother entered the contest for him. He said ‘wouldn’t it be great if Timothy could get a new bike?’ Timothy had no idea his brother wrote an essay for him,” Thomas said.
Craft said his older brother, Barnhart fifth grader Tashawn Thomas, was an awesome big brother. “This really makes me feel good. The chain just broke on my old bike,” Craft said.
It was a surprise for those chosen to receive a bike. However, their parents were notified and invited to school for the presentation of the bikes. Barnhart fifth grader Zakiah Ziegler received a purple bike. Her mother, Linda, was excited for her and said Zakiah is a disciplined and driven student.
“She loves school. She loves to help her teacher and is always looking to help anyone in need. Her teacher is constantly sending me notes about how well she is doing in school. She takes initiative and completes an assignment as soon as she gets is. She is one of a kind,” Ziegler said.
Fourth grader Amelia King was chosen to receive a bike and said she was excited to get outdoors to ride it. “I am excited to get a new bike. I am too big for my old bike so this is pretty cool,” King said.
Kendrick Faison is the recent past president of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Omicron Delta Sigma Chapter. He, along with several of his fraternity members, helped to present the bikes to students. According to Faison, the fraternity has a service foundation and helps to support schools and organizations in the local community. He said the group chose to support Barnhart because they have a mentoring program at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, which is a feeder middle school for Barnhart.
“This is our third year of doing this here at Barnhart. We have a mentorship program at Stoddert and this school feeds into there. This year we partnered with the Waldorf Walmart, who gave us a $1,500 community grant to help get these bikes,” Faison added. The fraternity also recently coordinated for several Stoddert students to attend a leadership event, and helps to fund the school store at Barnhart when it runs low on school supplies.
Barnhart Principal Benjamin Kohlhorst reminded his students to be safe with their new bikes and to be sure and thank the fraternity members. “Make sure you wear your helmet. And take good care of the bike. It is your property. Lastly, please be sure to thank anyone in a blue jacket. They are the ones who set this up for you,” Kohlhorst said.