Nationally-Known Speaker to Highlight Tenacity Challenge on April 27

April 18, 2024
Willie Spears, nationally-known motivational speaker will highlight the 13th annual Tenacity Challenge at Bedford High School on Saturday, April 27. Photo credit:

A nationally-known motivational speaker will highlight the 13th annual Tenacity Challenge at Bedford High School on Saturday, April 27.

Willie Spears, author of 11 books, former high school and college teacher and coach, and a one-time entertainer for Disney Cruises, describes his speaking approach as “passionate, energetic, and hilarious.” He markets his presentations as “The Willie Spears Experience.”

Tenacity Challenge is an academic scholarship competition for teams of African-American and Latino and Latina students. Teams of as many as six students compete in a range of formats covering four areas: art, history, literature, and mathematics.

Akil Mondesir, the Bedford schools’ METCO director and coordinator of the day’s event, said Spears, who is from Panama City, FL, was excited to learn of the opportunity to be the keynote speaker. He noted that the afternoon address is open to the public.

Mondesir said 25 teams – including three from BHS – representing nine school districts will take part in the day’s events, which run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. More than 150 students and teachers will represent contiguous towns of Lexington and Burlington and cities as far away as Worcester and Taunton.

The theme for the day, which will be explored and debated by participants, is “The Future of Diversity on College Campuses.” The Tenacity Challenge website stresses that “during the extended period of preparation, students build academic capacity, strengthen intellectual risk-taking, and develop enduring peer and faculty relationships.”

The Tenacity Challenge was conceived by former Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills when he was BHS principal. Mondesir said Sills modeled the concept after the Women in Science competition.

In an email this week, Sills observed that this month’s Tenacity participants, “inspired to go above and beyond, will once again wow us with their analyses, problem solving, and creativity.  My own personal thanks go to all of the adult coaches, judges, helpers, photographers, funders, and organizers who make this opportunity possible, year after year.”

Former METCO Director Dr. Percy Napier implemented the original details and launched Tenacity Challenge, Mondesir said, and Napier, Sills, and former METCO Director Claire Jones are expected to be on hand for this year’s event. Also attending will be Sills’s successor as Principal, Henry Turner, now the principal of Newton North High School, which will have teams at the challenge.

Sills noted that counting this month’s event, and the Middle School Tenacity Challenge in March, more than 2,000 high and middle school students will have “dedicated their time, sweat, and tenacious preparation in order to compete with their African American and Latina/o peers.”

Contributing to the success of the day, Mondesir said, will be Kim Comeiro, instructional coach at John Glenn Middle School; Sean Hagen, program director for art at the high school; Patrick Morrissey, BHS program director for math; and Jonathan Brome, Jen Ilchuk, and Ayesha Thomas of the Bedford METCO staff.

Mondesir also thanked Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tricia Clifford for their support and encouragement.

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