What began as an English Language Arts senior class project morphed into an exhibition for the entire Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men student body, parents and staff.

The Dec. 20, program had seniors displaying their written and oral communication skills before a panel of judges. Four teachers from FDA served as judges, Sean McGee, a math teacher; Germaine Clinkscales, senior advisor; Nathan Tedford, an English teacher, Army instructor Sgt. 1st Class Robert Vaillancourt, along with retired Detroit Public Schools teacher, Sgt. 1st Class Linda Thomas.

This was the first exhibition for Frederick Douglass Academy but after positive reactions from staff and students it may become an annual event.

The exhibition was “fun and exciting,” said contest winner Brian Mitchell. “For a group of students with almost no experience performing,we did an amazing job."

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Senior David Dyer, works on his vision board which details his goals, philosophy, and future career plans. 

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Exhibition Winner, Brian A. Mitchell, during dress rehearsal. 

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Katrena Rimmer, Senior ELA teacher and exhibition coordinator, backstage with Jeffery Clark. Known around FDA as a resource for students who need assistance with their uniforms, Clark served as exhibition mentor, assisting students with their wardrobe for the show. 

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Principal Berry Greer, director of the FDA Percussion Ensemble, with member Jayden Honey play the xylophone during the exhibition. 

Seniors were judged on their stage presentations and their visual displays, which included a three-panel white board for each, complete with a photograph of the student and a list of future career plans, a seven-paragraph autobiography and a vision board that displayed images that represent their long-term goals. The stage presentation included four sections; students performed a talent, recited an oratorical essay and modeled both business and causal denim attire.  

The overall stage presentation and project board scores constituted the students’ project grades.

“Preparation for the exhibition was key,” said Katrena Rimmer, who teaches senior level ELA.  “It took us six weeks, including two full dress rehearsals, to get ready for the showcase.”

Rimmer said the project began to take shape “after conversations with the students about the importance of communicating effectively when writing and speaking.”

The goal of the senior project was to sharpen verbal and non-verbal communication in preparation to meet the standards needed when they enter the professional world, Rimmer said.

Attendees each received a program that included brief biographies of the seniors. They also were able to view the project boards in the auditorium before the presentations began. The auditorium was decorated for the holiday season.

The show opened with a performance by The FDA Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of principal Berry Greer.

Seniors were expected to present themselves with confidence and poise, while retaining their own style. They also modeled vibrant colored suits with boutonnieres and causal outfits.

Each competitor presented an oratorical essay about a “Man of Distinction” -- they named an African American role model that each deemed worthy of acknowledgement, and merged the story of their role model’s life with their own.

“The show was elegantly put together and all the seniors did a good job,” said Linda Krawford, a resource teacher at Frederick Douglass and exhibition assistant. She added that she would help with another exhibition if she had the opportunity.

“One thing I learned is that it can be difficult for students to talk in front of crowds, and that preparing for a show like this takes a lot of practice and motivation.”

Senior Darryl Stokes both competed and performed with the percussions ensemble.

 “I am really glad to have experienced the showcase,” Stokes said.  “I perform a lot on stage but I don’t orally speak in front of people. This opportunity gave me experience in doing that.”

Said Rimmer: “I am very proud of each of them. As I watched them perform, I was overjoyed.”

Senior Tarae’ Harris said he felt the strongest category was talent, and in particular he liked Stokes’s performance on the Xylophone.

“I have never heard or watched anyone play an instrument live at Frederick Douglass before. it was great,” said Harris.