As part of an annual celebration of Black History Month, Freedom Middle School honored two local African Americans during the Monroe and Mary Booker Awards for Leadership and Service, on Friday, February 28, at the school. This year’s award recipients are Dr. Damien Hodge (community representative) and James Onadeko (student representative.)
Dr. Damien Hodge graduated from Franklin High School in 1991. He received his bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University, his Master’s of Education from Xavier University (2002), and his doctorate from Tennessee State University (2014). He is currently the post-secondary education liaison at Tennessee Department of Corrections and supervises higher education initiatives in all prisons across Tennessee.
The student representative was selected by the Booker family from a group of nominated eighth-graders who completed an application and essay. Student nominees are: Ayobami Abijo, Kennedy Johnson, James Onadeko, Asia Patton, Dominic Reed, Jasmene Taylor, and Hailey Watkins.
The annual award ceremony is a decade-old tradition at Freedom Middle, where the Bookers have become extended family to the faculty, staff and student body. The family reunites every year in the school gymnasium, inspiring the school community to uphold the Booker ideals of education, community spirit, deep faith and strong moral conviction.
The award day is a collaborative effort between the school and the children of Monroe and Mary Booker, lifelong Williamson County residents who understood that education would take their children to places they could not, and whose 12 children never gave less than their best effort. The Booker Awards honor a student and a community member who embodies what the Bookers modeled in their own lives – the value of an education and the obligation one has to make their own community a better place.
All of Monroe (1921-2006) and Mary (1926-2004) Booker’s children attended Franklin Special School District schools. Affirming their parents’ strong belief in education, all 12 attended college – six of them at Fisk University, two at Vanderbilt, and one each to Harvard University, Spellman College, Tennessee State University and Concordia College. They have all led successful careers in law, social work, civil engineering, banking, broadcasting, teaching and coaching.
Claudia Booker Lisenby (deceased), Charlotte Booker Hall, Janet Booker-Davis, Gwen Booker Jones (deceased), Cyrus Booker, Linda Booker, Brenda Booker, Robert Booker, Joe Booker, Sherry Booker Reynolds, Karen Booker, and Barry Booker.