McKissick receives VMHS Golden Stinger Award

By KATHY COPELAND / Community Columnist

Thirty-two years is quite the investment of time into a career, especially when it requires spending your days impacting the lives of students.

Samuel McKissick now knows, officially, that he has touched a life, in duplicate.

During a special graduation ceremony, JROTC students who were leaving for military assignments just days following had the opportunity to don cap and gown and walk to the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” as they climbed the auditorium steps at Vincent Middle High School.

Parents, grandparents and other relatives looked on respecting social distancing guidelines, and while masks drew attention to the uncertain times of the day, the momentary dropping of a mask to snap a photo captured the genuine smiles that made it clear hope and optimism were in the air.

Sam McKissick, claiming he is old enough to be the student’s grandfather, was also smiling with his heart.

“Affectionately, I call them Rugrats,” McKissick said.

Having been at VMHS for 30 years, McKissick explained, “I started teaching this graduating class in seventh grade, and they were 12 or 13 years old. Reflecting, I realized I taught their parents, brothers, sisters and cousins.”

What makes this class so special? “It was a challenging time for me when I was asked to move from teaching high school to teaching middle school years ago. It coincided with the welcoming of my first grandson at home. To ease my mind about the assignment change, I told the students when I look at them, I would think of my grandson.

“It was the first time in my career that I was really teaching children, not children who thought they were grown (high schoolers), so I bonded with them,” he continued. “Just like I fell in love with my grandson, I fell in love with the class of 2020.”

It is a tradition at VMHS that the top 10 academic achievement students are afforded the opportunity to recognize someone that most impacted their lives with a “Golden Stinger Award.”

Toni Wright, on behalf of her twin sister, Tion, and her classmates, awarded the distinguished award to Samuel McKissick.

During the presentation, Toni read a poem that was reportedly a combined sisterly effort, called “The Man,” a heartfelt description of the impact one life has made on many.

Perhaps it is McKissick’s outlook on life that led to this award.

“I believe it was my destiny to teach at VMHS, my parents always stressed education, what you put in your head no one can take away,” he said. “I came to VMHS not only to teach social studies, but also to encourage equality, peace and harmony among all people. That is the key, love. You can’t teach them if you don’t love them.

“As a Christian, I follow God’s command, ‘love thy neighbor…,’” he said. “Teaching at Vincent is where God wanted and needed me. I dreamt it before coming here. It has been my blessing.”