Thursday, February 18, 2010
Byers, others inspire students
By SUE WATSON
An impressive lineup of community leaders recently provided inspiration for school children and staff at Holy Family School in Holly Springs.
Here are some of the comments presenters made before various classes during Catholic Schools Week.
Karen Jeltz, director of human resources for Sacred Heart Southern Missions, worked hard to be where she is today, said principal Clara Isom.
With SHSM for 25 years, she began with the words, “I will prepare myself for my future. When? Right now. Why? Because I can.”
Jeltz advised youngsters to begin preparing for college or their future now.
County prosecutor Shirley Byers had a similar message for students.
A friend of Isom’s when in grade school, Byers studied business then later became an attorney and a circuit court judge before returning home to Holly Springs.
“A lot of schooling goes into it,” Isom said. “You should start now thinking about law. You can be a Shirley Byers.”
A product of Holly Springs schools, Byers said today’s youth must think beyond a high school diploma in preparing for a future.
“Even if you go to a trade school, it’s going to take some education,” Byers said. “Develop a foundation, develop a personality, get the basics for success. When you’ve made something of yourself and have contributed to your community and your surroundings, you are a success. Stay off drugs and alcohol.”
Byers enjoyed watching the television show Perry Mason as a youngster, she said, a TV lawyer who never lost a case and never went to trial.
But a day of motivation and a turning point in Byers’ life was when a local attorney spoke at her school which was predominantly attended by blacks.
“I got on the first row and was interested in what he had to say,” she said.
She was told African Americans could not be lawyers, she said.
“I was appalled,” she said.
Byers sent the attorney an invitation to her college graduation and to her swearing-in ceremony to the bench in Washington County.
“Nothing can stop you from being what you want to be,” she said. “You have to have self-esteem yourself.”
Byers obtained a master’s in business and worked for the City of Memphis eight years before enrolling in law school. Afterward she clerked at the Mississippi Supreme Court, practiced in Greenville, was elected judge, practiced in Columbus, then moved to Holly Springs and opened a law office.
She is serving a first term as county prosecutor, which handles misdemeanor and truancy cases.
“You will not believe the number of kids whose parents drop them off at school and they go right out the back door (skip school),” she said. “I see kids who commit crimes, get in gangs.
“Where do you think that is going to land them? I see people who go into people’s houses and rob them and who take drugs to school. Where do you think that is going to get them?
“It all leads to jail or prison where they have no control over what they eat, when they sleep.”
Nurse Lorena Adams provided an interesting seminar on nutrition and exercise as well as some simple math.
Students got to dress up as chefs and to help with the show in which Adams introduced various food groups and helped students identify them.
Special thanks to the list of leaders who agreed to inspire and teach – Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, Rev. James Green, Rev. Charles Moses, Rev. Gary Adams, Byers, Jeltz, Bro. Bennie Braswell, Rev. Denise Modest, and Adams.
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