Pryor Student Excels During Pen and Pencils Spell It Like It Is Contest

Representatives from the Gregg Chapel Affiliate of Pen or Pencil recently returned from their National Youth Summit in Little Rock, Arkansas with First Place honors in the “Spell It Like It Is Contest."

Alexis Richardson, an 8th grader at Pryor Middle School and member of Mercy Seat Ministries, was one of two contestants left standing in a virtual tie for first place.  In a friendly battle reminiscent of an evenly matched tennis game; both contestants volleyed back and forth until the judge finally ran out of words and the contest was called.  Ms. Addie Richburg, President of the National Alliance of Faith and Justice (NAFJ) and summit sponsor said “this is one contest that left us all on the edge of our seats," as she congratulated the winners.

Pen or Pencil is a national group mentoring initiative with the Gregg Chapel Affiliate being one of twelve sites in the entire nation. This multi-level, cross-curricular strategy is effectively used by screened and qualified mentors to reduce delinquency; improve academic outcomes and interest, and to inspire higher education and labor market readiness of youth.  It is designed to assist America’s young, most threatened by disconnection from the PENCIL (education) and at risk of becoming victims which results in the PEN(itentiary).  This initiative focuses on group mentoring in a 1:5 ratio setting; with customized curriculum for school-based mentoring and community organizations.  A dedicated team of thirty-eight Pen or Pencil volunteers mentored countless hours in eight different Okaloosa Schools.

“Through PEN OR PENCIL™Writing A New History, we share a commitment to think differently and critically about the manner in which mentoring is defined and to ensure an approach which is culturally appropriate, ethnically empowering, and of sound quality,” said Pastor Cecil B. Williams, Pastor of Gregg Chapel AME Church and Site Director.  “Research proves that mentoring is a low-cost, high-results solution to a deepening crisis. Mentoring also has the power to transform even the most challenged children’s lives. To that end, the Gregg Chapel Affiliate has been extremely busy over the past two quarters.” 

Each year NAFJ and the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice hosts the Youth Training Summit attended by hundreds of mentees and their mentors from Pen or Pencil sites across the nation.  The “Spell It Like It is Contest” is one of many competitive learning exercises during the summit used for academic enhancement, to increase vocabulary, prompt curiosity and study, and to stimulate learning. Words in this spirited competition are derived from various components of the PEN OR PENCIL™ curriculum.  This year’s Summit also featured keynote speaker Dr. Bernice A. King, daughter of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who’s powerfully spirited message challenged summit attendees to do their part in “breaking the chain of youth violence.”

Click here to see Reverend Jerry D. Jones' article the Results of Group Mentoring Evident.

For more information on the Pen and Pencil program or to become a Pen and Pencil mentor, please contact Reverend Jerry D. Jones at


Pictured left to right: L) Addie Richburg, President of NAFJ and Summit Host,  Alexis Richardson, Gregg Chapel Affiliate Mentee,  Deedra Wilson,, Little Rock Arkansas, Pine Bluff Arkansas Affiliate Mentee, Osaze Cole (R).  “Spell It Like It Is” Contest First Place Winners Pen or Pencil Youth Mentoring Summit, Little Rock Arkansas.

Pictured left to right:  Trinity D’ Bartolo,Pryor MS; Amber Gipson-Mentor, FWBHS Alumni; Tamara Hernandez, Edwins Elem; Alondra Boulden, CHOICE HS; Daquon Bridges, Okaloosa Academy; Amiah Banks, Shoal River MS;  Alexis Richardson, Pryor MS; Shekinah Glory Small, Choctawhatchee HS. Attendees of the National Youth Summit, Little Rock, Arkansas.