WHS promotes Dr. Nelson’s “Lift while you climb” philosophy with new award

Tate Fallon, R3 Features Editor

“We have an obligation to our fellow human beings that if we are in a position to help someone, you do it. You lift as you climb. If you can do that, you have contributed more to society than anything your bank account can produce and, ultimately, contributed more to your own well-being.” – Dr. Derrick Nelson

Dr. Derrick Nelson speaking at graduation 2018

In honor of Dr. Nelson, his philosophy and his legacy, the WHS Counseling Department created a quarterly award that will spotlight two to four students nominated by WHS staff and counselors. 

The nominees must demonstrate the following qualities, according to the award’s guidelines: “Show a positive attitude toward classmates, school and community. Display an understanding and appreciation of their responsibility to the WHS community. Perform random acts of kindness, maintain positive and friendly relationships with peers and staff. Possess the strength of character and the courage to do what is right.”

Principal Mary Asfendis announced the first ever recipients of this award on the virtual announcements for the third marking period—sophomores Brooke Colannino and Mia Johnson. These two have followed in the footsteps of Dr. Nelson by looking out for their classmates and bringing uplifting energy to WHS.

“I was completely surprised and so excited,” said Colannino in response to receiving the award. “It’s such an honor to win an award like this, especially since it’s for Dr. Nelson who many people looked up to. It means so much to me because it’s just a small reminder of the long lasting legacy Dr. Nelson had on the WHS community.” 

Johnson, an instructor at a yoga studio, was just as surprised; however, this award meant something different to her. 

“Receiving this award is such an honor to me and to my family,” said Johnson. “It has proven to me that good things can come from the worst times. I didn’t find yoga during a bright and joyous time in my life. I was extremely depressed, but luckily I was able to find and commit to [yoga]. I now realize how lucky I was to find this life skill, and due to the circumstances I was in, it proves to me that by sharing my craft with others, I can lift them out of any of the depths they are swimming in.” 

Johnson’s yoga experience has led her to learn more about herself and others. When reflecting on the award, she is motivated to continue “finding [herself] and helping others find themselves.” Johnson hopes to pursue yoga further, both as a lifestyle and a practice, that she has grown to love.

“WHS has so many reasons to celebrate student achievement academically, athletically and in the performing arts, and we are proud to feature those achievements,” said Head of Guidance Maureen Mazzarese. “As a department, we were interested in finding a way to recognize students who contribute to our school in ways that are often unnoticed, are not attached to a perfect score, applauded by an audience or cheered by a crowd… So much of what we are hoping to recognize seemed embodied in Dr. Nelson’s quote—one that I heard him say many, many times. I can still hear him saying it.”