R&B/Hip-Hop superstar and philanthropist Usher Raymond, IV visited his former school, Dalewood Middle, on Thursday to celebrate star roll and honor roll students and to honor his beloved “Nanny,” the late Mrs. Nancy Ann Lackey. Today would have been her 77th birthday.
Principal Chris Earl, Assistant Principal Elaine Parker and Family Partnership Specialist Senita Dixon partnered with Usher to surprise students after he donated money to Dalewood this summer for the school to purchase a digital marquee to help keep Dalewood students, families, and the community informed about school news and upcoming events.
Principal Earl said, "We are so appreciative that Usher stopped by Dalewood to honor students at his former school while he was in town. Usher was in Chattanooga visiting family to honor a loved one who passed away last year. To thank Mr. Raymond for his visit and his generous donation to our school, we put a memorial tribute on our new digital marquee in honor of Usher's "Nanny".
The eight-time Grammy award winner has sold more than 65-million records to date. In addition to his many other talents and accolades, Usher was recently a coach on the NBC hit talent show "The Voice."
Usher spent most of his childhood in Chattanooga and began his singing career in a Chattanooga church choir. He attended Orchard Knob Elementary and Dalewood Middle before moving to Atlanta with his family. In 2001, the city of Chattanooga named part of the road near the school "Usher Raymond Parkway."
Dalewood students and educators were shocked when Usher walked into the gymnasium during the school's monthly awards ceremony. Usher spoke to students about the importance of education in helping students to become engaged and active citizens in their communities. Usher also presented an award to star roll student Kennedy Toney who has had straight As for three years straight - her 6th, 7th and 8th grade years at Dalewood.
Usher founded an education nonprofit in 1999 to help students achieve college and career success. "Usher’s New Look" is dedicated to engaging disconnected youth to find a path to leadership and help them make career choices that match their passion. The nonprofit is built on four leadership pillars for student: talent, education, career and service.
According to the nonprofit's website, "Usher's New Look" has helped more than 21,000 students since 1999. The website says 100% of "New Look Graduates" have gone onto higher education or job placement. For more information, go to ushersnewlook.org.
One of Usher’s former teachers also attended the assembly. Roxanne Edwards was the choir director at Dalewood Middle when Usher was a student. She is now the choir director at Tyner Academy. Ms. Edwards presented Usher with a Dalewood Middle T-shirt and some other items with the school’s name and logo as a small token of Dalewood’s appreciation.
Dalewood Middle has had lots of good news to celebrate in the 2014-2015 school year in addition to Usher's visit. A few highlights include:
- In August of 2014, Dalewood Middle earned several A's on the state report card for value added growth in 7th and 8th grade literacy and 6th and 7th grade mathematics.
- In December of 2014, several Dalewood Middle educators won federal TIF (Teacher Incentive Fund) grants as part of the Tennessee "Race to the Top" initiative.
- In December of 2014, Dalewood Middle came in first place in the small school division of WRCB Channel 3's "Share Your Christmas" donation drive for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank. Dalewood families collected 4435 pounds of food.
Dalewood Middle is part of the Hamilton County Department of Education's Innovation Zone. The iZone is a specialized branch of HCDE that is committed to providing support to the county's priority schools. By meeting the needs, motivations and strengths of each child, students in the iZone will be better prepared for success in K-12, college and career.