A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. – Proverbs 22:1
By Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues
Cover & Inside Photo Credit: Priscilla Graham
Even after 92 years, Jewell Houston maintains her connection to children and her Acres Home community.
Though small in stature, she is a quiet giant whose words, example and life touches hundreds of kids each year at the Jewell Houston Academy – named in honor of her years of service as a mother, teacher and community icon and matriarch.
As she ages gracefully, the school that bears her name celebrated a decade of academic excellence and Mrs. Houston was as usual right in the thick of things mingling with family, friends and most of all the beloved students of the academy.
“We love these good young people with goals and aspirations,” she told the large group gathered to honor her and the school’s accomplishments. “This celebration represents the best feet you children put forward each day in this school and shows the care that the district, teachers and staff have for students.”
Houston was given a special recognition award in conjunction with the school’s 10-year anniversary.
Attending the event recognizing a decade in Acres Home community was Aldine ISD Superintendent Dr. Wanda Bamberg and Board President Steve Mead and other members of the Aldine School Board; Acres Home Chamber for & Business for Economic Development, Inc. Chairman Roy Douglas Malonson, school faculty and staff and a number of other past employees, parents and local dignitaries. Also, several members of Houston’s church turned out in support of the school and Houston.
“Jewell Houston Academy is a wonderful school and is named after a “jewell” of a person,” said Dr. Bamberg. “We are committed to making sure it is the legacy you deserve for many years to come. Thank you for all your work.”
Jewell Simpson Houston is a native Houstonian and graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and Paul Quinn College. She received here Bachelor’s Degree in Science from Houston College for Negroes and began teaching in Aldine in 1951. She later earned a professional lifetime certification for high school instructor, principal, counselor and superintendent. She retired after dedicating 34 years of her life striving to instill a “can-do” attitude in her students.
Jewell Houston Academy was born in August 2003. With a projected enrollment of 760 fifth and sixth graders that Jewell Houston Academy for Math, Science and Fine Arts, the school opened its doors.
During its first three years, Houston Academy was a magnet-only campus helping develop and graduate some of the most outstanding performers and college ready citizens in Aldine district.
Starting the fourth year and continuing, the school has welcomed students from the neighboring attendance zone as well as magnet students from the district- all with the goal of preparing them to be well rounded college bound learners and talented Fine Arts performers.
The celebration also featured a short film on the 10 year history of the school and showed many past sights and sounds that helped shaped the culture and tradition of the school.
The program came complete with entertainment with singing provided by the Houston Academy Gospel Choir and Houston Academy Concert Choir. Also, several selections were also played by the Houston Academy Orchestra and a short opera play performed by the Houston Academy Dance Company.
The celebration was followed by a grand reception in the school library. Those attending stopped by to congratulate Houston for her award and sign a memory book for her.
Principal Ruby Allen said the school has a plan and vision for each student and does not waver on making sure each fulfills that goal.
“We believe failure is not an option,” Allen said. “Our focus is instilling in each of our students that the future is theirs and they have what it takes to achieve all their dreams. We are committed to leading them to be their very best.”
Houston’s connection with the school has lasted long past her retirement. She spends time at the school periodically and mentors faculty and student alike.
“We must be involved in the lives of our young people and help in shaping their lives,” Mrs. Houston said. “We have a great opportunity to do good and do things right. We must do our part because these young people have so much to offer a world ripe with opportunity for them to move forward.”
Gems from Mrs. Jewell Houston: include a basic understanding of the following given to every student.
“Everyday was a blessed day with the students as my priority. I tried to let them know:
1. They were important, someone loves them and was depending on them to succeed.
2. They could improve their skills, understanding and self worth each day.
3. There were no limitations on using their God-given talents to be productive citizens.”
One student who influenced by Houston’s words and benefitted from that wisdom and example is Leah Ojesina.
Ojesina was a 2005 graduated of the Houston Academy, a 2011 graduate of Carver High School and currently is a student at Texas A&M University and expects finish next year.
In her keynote speech, she praised Houston Academy for its commitment to student excellence and thanked Mrs. Houston and her teachers for giving her the counsel she needed as a young lady to prepare her to navigate teen and young adult years.
“They played a significant role in my success,” Ojesina said. “I received a great education here that has helped prepare for life and excel in college. It would not have been possible without Jewell Houston Academy.”
Married to Melvon Lee Houston for 57 years, the Houston’s had three children, six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one goddaughter.
Family members were grateful for the tribute to their mother and said that their mother’s strength comes from her love and commitment to young people.
“This event far surpasses her expectations and there are not enough words to express our appreciation for the school, the community and staff,” said Barbara Houston Stewart. “This is far beyond her imagination and she has lived to see her goals and dreams come to fruition.”
Houston-Stewart said it is truly the Acres Home community that makes the school so special.
“This event is just outstanding and we very much appreciate the recognition,” said Avanell Demart, her youngest daughter. “She is a blessing to us and a blessing to these children. We are all thankful for her and the living example and legacy she is.”
Son Melvon Houston Jr. said he was very excited to see his mother be loved so much and welcomed with open arms at the school.
“It is very impressive how she is treated and what they children are doing here year after year,” he said. “This is very uplifting to her and is a source of pride for her. This is good for the kids and good for her also.”