Benjamin Banneker Math and Science Honor Society
In today's society studies indicate minorities score significantly lower on
standardized test and in the classroom. Many experts believe this may be attributed
to economic and social conditions. Specifically external factors such as exposure
to violence and drugs have a negative impact on many minority communities. by
many a lost cause, the fortitude of minority’s to find their place in
society has slowly dwindled in today’s fast pace society. For many, the
distance these young people have to catch up to their counter parts in schools
around the country is too great to even attempt to bridge. Many give up before
even trying, but some decide that the best way to fight such a dilemma is to
even up the score. In 1989, the late Joseph Speller began what became the stepping-stone
for many, to not only catch up in academics, but also get ahead.
The Benjamin Banneker Honors Math and Science Society, commonly known at the Naval Academy as “Ben Ban”, continues to enrich the lives of the midshipmen and those they mentor. The program started out as a way Mr. Speller could get a few troubled teens off the streets and into a more nurturing environment for their studies. Mrs. Speller quoted her husband, “When my son came home and told me some of his friends tried to convince him to rob a Safeway (convenience store), I knew that something had to be done.” What started out as a small group of young men meeting every Monday morning at Benjamin Banneker Middle School has grown into a co-educational program led by the Montgomery County School System in partnership with the United States Naval Academy. To his wonder and amazement, the program not only worked but steadily grew into a vital program in Montgomery County; receiving many nationally recognized awards such as the 1000 points of Light presented by former President George W. Bush in 1991.
Joseph D. Speller, passed away in 1994, however his legacy lives on through
his wife Mrs. Arlene Speller who now is the head of the program. Mrs. Speller
has since received the 2000 Educators Award from the Congressional Black Caucus’
Education Brain Trust ET 3 in recognition of her work and dedication. Moreover,
in 2001, BBHMSS received the Montgomery County Public School Distinguished Service
to Public Education Award.
Still, behind these awards and recognition is the very real and personal leadership of midshipmen, the concern of involved parents, and the students’ desire to succeed. Although the main purpose of the sessions is to offer academic assistance, much more is shared as evidenced by students who at the end of the period voluntarily stand to thank specific midshipmen they have worked with or by a grandmother who thanks midshipmen on behalf of her grandson.
As midshipmen stand in the front of the classrooms to introduce themselves, students look to men and women in uniform whose backgrounds are diverse and whose cultures each tell a different story. In addition to sharpened study skills and expanded horizons, students take away an understanding of group diversity, of the possibilities hard work can uncover, and the idea that in order to succeed one must always give 100%. From a humble beginning of 12 members, and a current enrollment of 200 members, the Benjamin Banneker program, as well as the many people supporting its cause, continues to provide positive influence for the students involved, and continues to give back to the community.