The Jackson Division has selected Cheryl Keeton Shelton to receive the Director’s Community Leadership Award.
Ms. Shelton has provided an outstanding contribution to the school system by raising funds for a drug and gang awareness program and by spearheading "Military Buddies," an initiative for her sixth-grade class.
Cheryl Keeton Shelton is a sixth-grade Language Arts teacher at Byram Middle School in Byram, Mississippi. She has been a teacher since 1985 and has taught at Byram since 2002. She is a graduate of Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, and she is also a 2009 graduate of the Jackson Division FBI Citizens’ Academy.
For the past 16 years, Ms. Shelton has helped raise funds for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program and the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program for the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson, Mississippi. The D.A.R.E. and G.R.E.A.T. programs provide students the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence. The programs are police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teach children in kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug- and violence-free lives. She has served as secretary for the D.A.R.E. board of directors.
Ms. Shelton also organized her sixth-grade class to be "Military Buddies" by preparing goodie boxes for soldiers assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Ms. Shelton, this act of kindness encourages her students to consider others instead of themselves. The first goodie box was sent in 2004 to one soldier in Iraq; now they are sending approximately 55 boxes per month and the number is increasing. Some of the soldiers have commented that the students are truly "Little Great Americans" and another stated that they are "Our Little Angels." The goodie boxes contain letters, cards, drawings, candy, crackers, peanuts, socks, foot powder, books, gum, and other nonperishable items.
Cheryl Keeton Shelton and the 120 sixth-graders at Byram Middle School were honored on February 13, 2009, by the U. S. Army with the Freedom Team Salute commendations at a special ceremony held at the school. They were honored for sending Valentine's Day goodie boxes to soldiers in Iraq and at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. They were also honored by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour who signed a proclamation declaring February 13, 2009, as Byram Middle School and Military Buddies Day. Ms. Shelton and her students were honored as Army Supporters.
Numerous thank-you e-mails have been received, and Ms. Shelton makes a point to read them to her students. She and her students were honored when one recipient of the goodie boxes visited her sixth-grade classes during the 2008-2009 school year. The soldier thanked each class and expressed how appreciative he and his troops were to have received the thoughtful packages.