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PECS service project wins accolades, helps African village

Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School celebrates winning second place in the state’s “Literacy Changes Our World” service project on Jan. 26 in Tallahassee. From left, front row, PECS teacher and parent Suraiya Smith, instructional coach Vicki Paige, Student Council Chairman Heith Lawrence, second-grader JoJo Nunez, third-grader Yani Smith and Principal Brian Greseth. From left, back row, Lottery Secretary Tom Delasencerie, K-12 Public Schools Chancellor Hershel Lyons, First Lady Ann Scott and Just Read Florida director Richard Myhre. (Contributed photo)

BRIGHTON — The efforts of Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School elementary school students paid off in a big way, with a $500 check from the state for taking second place in the “Literacy Changes Our World” service project.

Principal Brian Greseth, instructional coach Vicki Paige, Student Council Chairman Heith Lawrence, and students JoJo Nunez and Yani Smith traveled to Tallahassee to accept the check from First Lady Ann Scott Jan. 26 during the awards ceremony at the Museum of Florida History.

“We were the only charter school and the only school in the state to place two years in a row,” Paige said.

For the project, which was part of Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida, students collected gently used books, magazines, calendars and other useful educational tools and sent them to three charitable organizations in Okeechobee County: the Real Life Children’s Ranch, Martha’s House and Raulerson Hospital.

The students also sent more than 300 books and other items, including a few PECS T-shirts, across the Atlantic Ocean to a newly built library in a small African village in Zambia. PECS teacher Lydia Pell has a daughter and son-in-law, Bonnie and Brent Moser, who are Peace Corps volunteers in Africa. Bonnie received a grant to build a library that the villagers wanted; this donation will help stock the shelves.

The service project contest encourages students to actively promote literacy and good citizenship in their schools and communities. The elementary school has done this project for two years and Paige said she is proud of their dedication to the meaningful service project.

The exterior of the library in a small village in Zambia, Africa that is the beneficiary of hundreds of books and other items donated by PECS students. (Contributed photo)
The interior of the library in Zambia where PECS students donated hundreds of books and other items. (Contributed photo)
Myra Gopher, Heith Lawrence, Vicki Paige, First Lady Ann Scott, Principal Brian Greseth, Beulah Gopher and Suraiya Smith in back row, JoJo Nunez and Yani Smith in front, pose in Tallahassee after accepting check from state. (Contributed photo)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at