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Stamford High Holds Annual African American Award Ceremony

Baylor Bridges

Andrew Patashnik, Staff Writer

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Thursday February 7, the Stamford High African American History Classes hosted their annual award ceremony, recognizing African American Stamford High alumni who excelled in athletics during their time at SHS and went on to succeed greatly in life.

The ceremony recognized Robert “Spider” Hayes (Class of 1965), David Fields (Class of 1977), and Vladimir Ducasse (Class of 2006). The honorees were awarded with a plaque, a Stamford High hat, and more. Their names will also be added to a list of past honorees outside of room 131.

The host of the event was coach Jim Moriarty, who has taught the African American history class at SHS for the last few decades. He started the event after one of his students approached him with concern over how African Americans were conveyed in the news at the time.

“The offer was to recognize these successful people, so that at least on a local level, they could be honored in some way,” said Moriarity, “The students can see that there are very successful people with interesting stories about how they became successful.”

The ceremony also featured a performance of the National Anthem and “Gonna Build a Mountain” from the Stamford High Madrigal Singers led by former Stamford Teacher of The Year, Gloria Sinaguglia.

Each honoree had their awards presented by a current member of the African American community at SHS.

Hayes, whose award was presented by coach Sheena Carpenter, was born in Stamford in 1947 and has lived in Stamford since. While at SHS, he pitched for the baseball team during the FCIAC tournaments as only a sophomore, became the only SHS cross country runner to win the FCIAC championships, and played on the all-FCIAC first basketball team.

Fields, as presented by junior Martine Prevot, was co-captain of the varsity basketball team under Moriarty’s direction. He then went on to receive a BA in Political Science from Columbia University while playing on their basketball team. He was a member of the Black Student Union, and has worked to help women and minorities succeed in public media during his professional career.

Ducasse, who received his award from senior Armani Wilks, emigrated from Haiti to Stamford in 2002 at just fourteen years old. During his time as a student at SHS, he played for the all-FCIAC first football team, threw discus and shot put, and played varsity basketball. He was recruited to play football by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was then drafted into the NFL by the New York Jets in the second round. He played in all 16 games of his rookie season, including the AFC Championship. Since, he has played for multiple teams and currently plays for the Buffalo Bills.

Ducasse was a former student of the African American history class at SHS and credits his foundation of faith and perseverance that led him to the NFL to his first coaches and teachers: “I’ve been benched. I’ve been told ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ But, instead of packing my bags and walking away, I just kept on pushing and now I just finished my ninth year, and I am going on my tenth year in the NFL,” he said.

If there is any message that the three honorees wished their audience to walk away with, it was: “You can excel in athletics, but if you don’t have the education, you can only go so far,” as Hayes claimed, “Use your brains, not your brawn, and excel at what you do. If you can be the person you were meant to be, it’s going to show. Just be who you are, be proud of who you are, and meet people who love you and are proud of you.”

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Stamford High Holds Annual African American Award Ceremony