Freedom Middle’s Booker Awards honor modern day African American role models

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, which were held earlier this month at the school. This year’s award recipients were Robert Blair (community representative), and Avery Bell (student representative).

A Franklin native and graduate of the Franklin Special School District, Robert Blair has served on the FSSD Board of Education since 2003 and currently holds the office of Vice Chairman. In 2016, Blair was named to the Tennessee School Boards Association All-Tennessee School Board, an honor granted to only five School Board members across the state. He is a Level V Master School Board Member, as designated by the Tennessee School Boards Association, the highest designation a School Board member can earn.

Blair holds professional memberships in the national and state affiliate of the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NBSE), was recognized in 2009 for Outstanding Board Training by the National Alliance of Black School Educators, and in 2015, he was elected President of the Greater Nashville NABSE affiliate (GNABSE).

He is a strong community advocate and his service includes work with Leadership Franklin and Youth Leadership Franklin, My Friend’s House, WAVES, Franklin/Williamson County Boys and Girls Club, the Inner City Coalition Mentoring Program, Franklin Housing Authority
and Franklin Tomorrow. In 2017, he received the Boys and Girls Club “Ed Moody Award of Excellence” for his advocacy on behalf of children.

He is also Education Director at Cummins Street Church of Christ and has taught a Bible Life Skills Class for the past 25 years at the Williamson County Jail. He owns B. Media Communications, a strategic planning and board development agency that provides communications strategies for non-profits.

Avery Bell was the eighth-grade student recipient, who was chosen by application and essay. The daughter of Allena and Gary Bell, Avery will receive money in a college scholarship fund, which is endowed each year of high school until graduation. In addition to Bell, this year’s other student nominees were: Mya Alexander, Immanuel Barr, Makiyah Boyd, Devon Gibson, Aidan Grayson, Jillian Johnson, Maegan Mena, and Amari Robinson.

The annual award ceremony is a decade-old continuing 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.

Freedom Middle School is located at 750 Highway 96 West in Franklin and is a member school of the Franklin Special School District. The school, under the leadership of principal Charles Farmer, Ed.D., serves approximately 650 seventh- and eighth-grade students.

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