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Braden UMC Honors the Legacy and Future of Education: The Class of 2020

By Megan Davis

Sojourner’s Truth Reporter


Braden United Methodist Church has been in the local community for 112 years. It’s a church that has, through each decade, faced challenges and has likewise accomplished many feats by faith and perseverance.


The church is comprised of a body of members who have strong faith and have been empowered to be activists in the community to create change in the areas of outreach, government and education. Retired Sen. Edna Brown, for example, has represented Toledoans in the Ohio House and Senate, and her political career spanned 32 years.


The late Gloria Layson, who was an activist and a retired nurse, started the PASS Charter School and founded Mothers Outraged Against Drugs (MOAD) in Toledo,  had a vision for what is now the Freedom School, sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, that is held annually at the Monroe St. Community Center. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has stifled programming this year, it usually runs six weeks, providing academic support in reading and literacy to area youth.


Edrene Cole was an educator whose career spanned more than 35 years. She was a teacher in Toledo Public Schools, was a dean at Macomber Whitney, assistant principal at Pickett and principal at Ottawa River School, a school where Joyce Sparks, another Braden member, worked as a teacher for 30-plus years. Mrs. Cole chaired the ACT-SO competition and was a lifetime member of the NAACP. She also worked with Helen Cooks, PhD, at Toledo Excel.


Helen Cooks, who founded Toledo Excel in 1989, had a vision to ensure that underrepresented students would be able to graduate from high school and guarantee their college enrollment.  The program, which still exists today has impacted over 1,100 high school students, many of whom have graduated from the University of Toledo and are now educators and administrators or supportive staff themselves.

Whether it is Rahwae Shuman, who led the Toledo Ecumenical Youth Council (TEYC) in the 90s, who revived the program four years ago at  Braden, or Marie L. Bush, PhD, retired principal, who continues to serve in various capacities in community organizations that empower youth, like the Boys and Girls Club of Northwestern Ohio where she serves a board chairman, the knowledge, wisdom and experience that entered the doors of this local church each week is vast and long-lived, a legacy that generations will continue to carry on.

Nathaniel Mitcham

Cheyann Parker

Brooklyne Gregory


This is why, especially during the novel coronavirus pandemic and extended stay home order, it is important for Braden to recognize the now generation of students who have achieved high school graduation and will pursue higher education in Ohio universities. These youth have grown up in the church along with their parents and even grandparents. These students, whose shoulders will carry the mantle of faith and scholarship weren’t able to experience the typical senior year activities, from prom to senior pictures, to the commencement ceremonies that afford them the opportunity to be celebrated and rewarded with a diploma for their accomplishments. They won’t get to hear the cheers of the crowd in the Stranahan or Valentine Theatres; no marching to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, played by friends in the band; and no singing of their Alma Mater one last time.


The church honors all of its graduates each year, and this year, howbeit different, it will still happen. The seniors being honored are Cheyann Parker, Nathaniel Mitcham and Brooklynne Gregory. Each has had an impressive high school career and is moving forward to pursue degrees at a local university. We have seen the resumes of Braden members before and take joy in the sharing of these seniors’ accomplishments.


Cheyann Parker is a graduate of Springfield High School. A four-year honor roll student, she has participated in The African American Club, the Christian Girls Group, Be the Change Club and the Foreign Language Club. She has had administrative roles on the Homecoming and Prom Committees as well as  the Chick Fil A Leadership Academy, which extended their faith  mission by serving residents in the Spring Meadows Extended Living Center during the holidays, bringing them Christmas baskets.


Cheyann also volunteered as a third grade tutor at Holloway Elementary School and was in the Color Guard. She was a part of Students in Action and developed athletic skills on the track and powder puff football teams. A young lady of compassion and class, she was a part of the P.E.A.C.E Project (Protect Every Abused Child Everywhere) and she participated in the Toledo Debutante Cotillion, which could not be held this year. She has been a part of the Braden Youth Ministry, serving on Youth Sundays as a speaker, liturgist, and in the music ministry. Cheyann will attend The University of Toledo, pursuing a degree in Healthcare Administration.


Nathaniel Mitcham is a graduate of Jesup W. Scott High School, with honors. Tenth in the senior class, he has been on the honor roll and principal’s list. Nathaniel is one of 140 seniors who received the H.O.P.E Program Scholarship, which is paying the tuition of students attending accredited colleges, universities and trade schools, for up to 4.5 years.


Nathaniel serves on the Shepherds Ministry and sings in the Harper Male Chorus at Braden. A young man of faith, who started in Jr. Church is an aspiring leader, attending Bible Study regularly and has served as an acolyte, and lead worship services in the Youth ministry, also singing with the youth choir. He participates in the Mystery Music Choir and also helps maintain the Our Brothers Keeper Community Garden, alongside his grandmother, retired LSW, who also received a scholarship to attend school this far from the H.O.P.E Programl.


He has been accepted into Lourdes University in the fall and has received an additional scholarship for $1,000 per year as a result of his audition and acceptance into the Lourdes University Choir. Nathaniel’s major is Psychology and he is considering a minor in Sociology. He said, “I plan to help as many youth as possible through mentorship and counseling, helping them cope with and manage the pressure and stress of adolescence.”


Brooklynne Gregory is a graduate of St. Ursula Academy. An emerging leader, Brooklynne was instrumental in establishing the African American Club at St. Ursula. Serving as president, she has helped to create opportunities for St. Ursula students to learn about African American Heritage, celebrate culture and engage with younger students at Ella P. Stewart, working together on projects to support and mentor them. In her presidential role, she was also responsible for the Black History Month Program, organizing the events, theme and celebration held at the school.


She was awarded a trip to Tokyo, Japan to learn of their culture and how it relates to and differs from American Culture. Brooklynne has been a part of the choir and drama productions all four years and also was a varsity cheerleader for St. Francis de Sales. She was a part of the track team and  has also enjoyed being a part of the Music and Spanish Honors Programs.


At Braden, Brooklynne was an acolyte, a part of Jr. Church and the Youth group, serving during Youth Sundays as a speaker, choir member and the resident liturgical dancer. She was a recipient of a scholarship from The Toledo Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and was adopted by several people in the community through the Facebook Adopt-A-Senior Group. Brooklynne has been accepted into the Provost’s Leadership Academy, a high-achieving group of first year students, at Kent St. University. There, she will major in Psychology with a minor in Music.


Brooklynne shared, “With the closing of all Ohio Schools, my senior year has abruptly come to an end. I will never forget the amazing memories I had with my peers or my teachers  St.Ursula Academy has taught me many valuable lessons that as a young woman, I will carry no matter how far I go.” The sisters that I have made over the past seven years will always remain in my heart. To my SUA sisters, this is not a goodbye but just a see you later! With one door closing, another must open.”


Rev. Cecil J. Fitzgerald Thompson, Braden Pastor, The Theresa M. Brister Scholarship Committee and the Braden Christian Education Dept. and members would like to Congratulate the  Class of 2020 High School Seniors on their graduation!


Braden will unite to celebrate these Youth Grads on Sunday, May 31  at 12 PM, with a Drive Through Graduation Parade/Party! Each student will be present (with social distancing in place) and the Braden church family and Toledo Community are welcome to decorate cars and bring gifts/cards to our graduates and enjoy a treat, to go! Simply drive up and drop off, in celebration of our graduates! Braden is located at 4725 Dorr St. Toledo, OH 43615.





Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/22/20 00:57:43 -0400.

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