Brunswick High School students recognized

The James Solomon Russell – Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives recently recognized four students who competed in the Governor’s Black History Month Historical Marker Contest: Tyler Blanton, left, Danasia Firman, Jonathan Sadler and Jashanti Valentine. Joining the students were, first row, from left to right, Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Dr. Mark Harrison, Principal, Red Oak-Sturgeon Elementary School; Dr. Barbara Jarrett Harris, Chair, Brunswick County Board of Supervisors; Leslie Weddington, Assistant County Administrator; Rachelle Hawkins-Wesson, Teacher and Board Member; Regina Gordon, Museum Treasurer; Gloria Menyweather-Woods, Board Member; second row, Sylvia Allen, Board Member; James Grimstead, Chairman; Tracey Rogers, Assistant Division Superintendent, Brunswick County Public Schools; Carolyn Walker, Teacher, Creative Writing Class; Dr. Charlette T. Woolridge, County Administrator; Timothy Puryear, Brunswick County School Board; Dr. Ronald Thornhill, Principal, Brunswick High School; Teya Whitehead, Museum Secretary; and Dion Walker, Board Member. (Bobby Conner photo)

LAWRENCEVILLE – The James Solomon Russell – Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives recently recognized four Brunswick High School students who competed in the Governor’s Black History Month Highway Historical Marker Contest. The students were: Jashanti Valentine,  Danasia Firman, Jonathan Noah Sadler and Tyler Blanton. Jashanti was one of five state winners in the contest. She submitted the name of John Lyman Whitehead, Jr. Born near Lawrenceville, Whitehead served in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman and is credited with being the Air Force’s first African American test pilot and the first African American jet pilot instructor. As a winner of the contest, the state will fabricate and have the highway marker installed on Highway 58 near the Brunswick County Airport. 

Danasia, Jonathan and Tyler submitted the name of Sheppard Randolph Edmonds. He was born near Lawrenceville, attended Saint Paul’s High School, and went on to become Playwright and Educator. He is known as the father of College Theater. Since the Edmonds entry was not chosen as a winner in the state contest, the museum surprised the students by announcing that they will provide funding for this marker. 

James Grimstead, Chairman, said it was a great honor and privilege to be a co-sponsor in a program that recognizes the good activities of young people such as these participating in Governor Northam’s Black History Month Highway Historical Marker Contest.

“Our museum’s purpose calls us to be involved in community enrichment and enhancement and this celebration tonight is right in line with our goals.  These students who are participating didn’t just sign up for the challenge but stepped up to the plate to be a winner.  They had to think through what was required of them and then proceed to cross the finish line.  They did that, and that’s why they are here tonight.  We applaud them for their achievements.  A big thank you to the members of our museum Education Committee: Mrs. Rachelle Hawkins-Wesson, Ms. Pamela Simmons, Dr. Angela Parker and Mr. Linwood Swann.

“I want to thank all the parents, teachers and friends who have played a special role in preparing and encouraging these students to reach this wonderful accomplishment.

“This program is so important because it is a learning experience for all of us, bringing new-found information that is new to many of us,” Grimstead stated. 

Grimstead offered a special thanks to Dr. Barbara Jarrett Harris, Chair, and the members of Brunswick County Board of Supervisors, for their support. He said the museum board of directors looks forward to even greater joint participation with the community in the future. 

Delegate Roslyn Tyler congratulated the students saying she is an advocate of education. She applauded them for participating. Tyler thanked the members of the Education Committee for working with the students. She said the Commonwealth recently celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week and took the opportunity to thank the parents, teachers, members of the School Board and administration for their work with the students. 

Dr. Harris said she was delighted to stand before them to recognize their accomplishments on a job well done. She thanked administration, the staff at Brunswick High School and their parents for their support. Dr. Harris agreed with Delegate Tyler on the important role teachers play. She said it takes a village to raise a child and it is important to celebrate the legacy of these past leaders. Dr. Harris said she looks forward to seeing the markers and hopes this will serve as a sign of the great things that are happening in Brunswick County. 

“I hope your dreams come to fruition as you excel. On behalf of my colleagues I wish you the best and know that we support you,” Dr. Harris said. 

Dr. Ronald Thornhill, Principal, Brunswick High School, said he was proud of the accomplishments of the students. He said it is important to acknowledge and recognize the students in this way. Dr. Thornhill thanked the parents and teachers and said he recognized the persistence the students showed regarding this project. 

Carolyn Walker, Teacher, Creative Writing Class, said she considers the students her “babies” and commended them for their hard work and dedication to the project. She thanked Dr. Thornhill for his support and encouragement. 

“I see the growth you have made and I expect great things from you. I also want to thank the James Solomon Russell – Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives for sponsoring this contest and providing the platform that allows our students to shine,” Walker said. 

Tracey Rogers, Assistant Division Superintendent, Brunswick County Public Schools, provided closing remarks and thanked the museum for arranging this event and for reaching out to the school about this wonderful opportunity. 

Rogers thanked Rachelle Hawkins-Wesson and Carolyn Walker for their leadership and guidance in this endeavor. She thanked the students who worked hard to tell the untold stories of our local African American heroes.

“Congratulations to Danasia, Jonathan, and Tyler for your hard work on such an important task and especially to Jashanti Valentine whose entry was selected as one of five across the state by Governor Northam. And thank you again to the James Solomon Russell – Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives for funding the highway marker for the writing class,” Rogers said. 

Rogers said the work these students and others across the state have done this year to bring these stories of incredible African Americans to the forefront will help tell a more complete Virginia history. 

“You should be very proud of this accomplishment, because I know we are all very proud of you. Thanks again to everyone for coming out tonight to recognize and celebrate these students,” Rogers said. 

The James Solomon Russell – Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives is located on the second floor of the Brunswick County Conference Center, 100 Athletic Field Road, Lawrenceville, Virginia 23868. The museum is a 501 © 3 organization. For more information send an email to or call (434) 848-2173, Visit