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Black achievers are honored at gala

January 22, 2006|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN -

Robert A. Jackson Jr. is on a path to be a pastor at his church.

Ursula Mason formed a dance corps connected to the Memorial Recreation Center in Hagerstown.

Shelby Simonelli is working on a bachelor's degree in human resources.

James Thomas Jr. donates 70 hours per week to his ministry.

Steve Swayne's insurance and financial services office serves more than 2,000 households.

They are this year's Hagerstown YMCA Adult Achievers.

At a Black Achievers Gala at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway on Saturday, a packed banquet room heard the honorees' attributes and applauded them.

A printed program said the Black Achievers in Business and Industry Awards Program began in 1971 at the YMCA in Harlem, N.Y.

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"Today, the Hagerstown YMCA is one of over 100 YMCAs nationwide comprising the National Black Achievers Network and has expanded to serve minority students with a variety of career and educational interest," the program said.

The YMCA also honored 40 children from grades 7 through 12 as Teen Achievers.

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who delivered the keynote address, said YMCAs deserve praise for how they serve children, such as through child care or counseling.

The Black Achievers Program gives students opportunities they might not otherwise get, he said.

"Imagine young African-American men in white coats going to medical school instead of orange jumpsuits going to prison," Steele said.

Some children never would learn the core values of honesty, responsibility, respect and caring if it weren't for YMCAs, he said.

The program said adult achievers "serve as role models and mentors who help motivate youth to set and achieve high educational and career goals."

Swayne was honored by State Farm, with whom his office is affiliated. Jackson, Mason, Simonelli and ThomHAGERSTOWNas were honored by First Data, their employer.

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