‘Heroic, resilient, friendly, graduate’: Middle school marquee in Nashville helps students realize their worth

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A middle school in Nashville is taking a new approach to helping students feel special. People driving by Haynes Middle School off Trinity Lane recently may have noticed something different on the marquee.

“Every week it’s a student on one side and then there’s a staff member on the other side with four words that describe who they are,” said Haynes Middle School principal, Dr. Roderick Webb. “We’re still in a pandemic. And our kids just need as much encouragement and motivation as possible.”

It’s an idea that came to him while riding by Nissan Stadium before the start of the school year.

“A particular student came to my mind and I know the student walks to school and I thought how cool would it be to have his name on the marquee with attributes about him so as he’s coming to school on the very first day he’d see that,” Dr. Webb recalled. “Then the words just came in my mind and I began to weep.”

He said he was overjoyed at the thought of using this to help students understand their worth.

“In a school with 325-plus students, it’s kind of easy to fall within cracks or just kind of stay in the background,” Dr. Webb said. “When a person feels included, when a person feels valued, when a person feels like they matter[….]when a person feels good they work hard.”

He explained that the students aren’t chosen based on a rubric like academics or extra-curricular; it’s just a gut feeling when he talks to them.

“It just makes me overjoyed especially to know students who don’t really recognize the things that are within them,” he said.

That was the case for Brenton Sherrill, who has his name up on the marquee this week.

“Dr. Webb came and told me to come here. I thought I was in trouble but then when I saw my name on the board I was like wow,” Sherrill said. The words used to describe him on the marquee were compassionate, skilled, preacher, and helpful. “That’s what I am. I love helping downed people that are not in the energy we’re in now.”

Amiyah Lewis didn’t initially notice her name upon the marquee along with the words amazing, scholar, invaluable, classy.

“My dad pointed at the board and I didn’t know what he was talking about until we got up to the board and I was like is that my name?” she said. “I was really happy.”

Dr. Webb said it wasn’t just about her great academic background, but she was a great big sister as well.

“It’s really important to me because I love all my siblings,” said Lewis.

The words that described Terry Gay on the marquee also had a lot to do with how supportive he was to his family, but Dr. Webb said he was helpful to his classmates as well.

“This girl dropped the trashcan and trash spilled everywhere and I got up and helped her clean it up,” said Gay. “Because everyone was staring at her and talking about her and I just decided to help.”

Dr. Webb grew up in the same neighborhood as his students and is a graduate of Metro schools. He hoped the words of encouragement helped students succeed at school and in life.

“Not only are we meeting the scores for academics but we’re also developing and producing amazing citizens for our city,” Dr. Webb said.

For students who are doing well but don’t make it on the marquee, he said there are different ways for the school to make sure they’re recognized.

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