The youth are the key to the community.
That is the basis of the work that Daryl Mason, chief of operations at Leak Street High School, has done throughout his career in education — and that is why he is being honored at this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
“It’s not something we do every year,” said Kim Harrington, member of the parade committee for the celebration. “But it is something we do when the recognition is warranted, and in this case it definitely was.”
Mason has been involved with the education at Leak Street for many years. He was once the principal of the school, but now continues on influencing the youth through his new position as chief of operations.
“It’s because of him that so many of the kids at Leak Street are on the right path and continuing with their education,” Harrington said. “He does a lot behind the scenes that most people don’t know about unless you work closely with him.”
The nomination of Mason for this year was made by Paulette Wall, Richmond County School’s homelessness and family community coordinator. Wall has worked with Mason for the past four years and has seen firsthand some of the deeds that he has done.
“I see the care and compassion that he shows towards the kids at Leak Street and even those that have gone beyond the school,” Wall said. “He’s always challenging them to reach their full potential. He has such amazing patience, and no matter how the day ends he always comes back energized and ready to face a new day.”
In many instances parents themselves have come up to him to thank him for his intervention saying that if it wasn’t for him their kids would not have come as far as they had, Harrington said.
Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. has known Mason for 26 years — when Mason first came here as an educator. In those years the relationship between the two men has really grown from being two friends to two brothers.
When recounting his experience with Mason as an educator, Clemmons said he can’t ever remember a time Mason wasn’t encouraging the youth of the county.
“I know for a fact that a speech he gives to the students at Leak Street causes the students to think,” Clemmons said. “He says that failure is not an option. You come here (Leak Street) and graduate or don’t come here. He’s a straight to the point, no-nonsense type of guy. He’s firm and fair.”
There are many people in the community that believe the students of Leak Street are not going to get anywhere in life, Clemmons said. Mason has turned that around through his leadership.
“One year I spoke at the school and there were 14 students that graduated and went on to college,” Clemmons said.
Leak Street currently has 176 students. There are 60 seniors, 40 juniors, 32 sophomores, 29 freshman and 15 eighth-graders.
Despite having one of the lowest budgets in the county, Mason manages to help get donations to make sure these students have a chance to go on as many cultural trips as possible, Clemmons said.
“He is one of those unsung heroes and has been for many years,” Harrington said. “It all is so natural to him, and he doesn’t think he should be honored even though he does go above and beyond the call of duty.”