A generous spirit has been the pinnacle of Beverly Stroman's 33-year career in education. And it goes beyond providing material things for the students she loves.
Stroman is retiring at the end of June after serving 17 years as principal of Mellichamp Elementary School in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five.
The 55-year-old began her teaching career in the former Orangeburg School District One, where she taught for four years before leaving to teach in Lexington School District Two for two years. She spent a total of 27 years in OCSD 5, where she also served as principal of Clark Middle School for four years.
Whether providing clothes, pencils, paper or just a warm smile, encouraging word or pat on the back to a child, Stroman epitomizes the spirit of giving. Because she recognizes the value of all people and the importance of lending a helping hand, she has been selected as the exemplification of generosity for May as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
True to her nature, Stroman shared the honor with the entire faculty and staff at Mellichamp, thanking them for being champions of generosity and support for her and the students.
"Mellichamp Elementary School is the most generous school I've ever known. My custodians take time to talk to the children and help them. Every person plays a role in that," she said. "We have in-house mentors that give to our children. The whole school should have been nominated for representing generosity."
Stroman said she was "very surprised and very humbled" by the Community of Character honor.
"I give God the glory for that. I know that my purpose in life is to help people with their children. That's why the Lord placed me on Earth," she said.
Mellichamp Elementary is home to a "Clothes Closet," which contains shirts, shoes, socks and other items children may need. School supplies are also provided for students who need them.
"There's not anything that they need that they can't get. That's what I tell my children. It may not be their wants, but it'll be their needs. We try to serve the whole child. If we know a family has a certain need, we try to really support that family in whatever way we can," Stroman said, adding that she appreciates the support of businesses, faculty, staff and community agencies that help the school meet the needs of students and their families.
But generosity goes beyond giving money or material things, Stroman says.
"It could be a smile or even a word of encouragement. During this day and age, it's not an easy time. We've got a lot of single parents. They're trying to work, and you have to encourage them and let them know that this, too, shall pass at some point," she said.
"Some parents don't have a support system. Sometimes being generous is just listening and giving advice."
Mellichamp Elementary also works to provide mentors for children from within the community, Stroman said.
"A child can't learn until he knows that you care about them as a person. Once they know that you care about them, they'll do anything for you," she said. "I give them a lot of love. They know I love them, but they know I don't put up with silliness, either. I even make them do their homework, and it's really because I care."
The North native said she was reared in a loving, Christian home where she learned early the value of giving. Her parents are the late Rev. Eric Stroman, who was a Methodist minister, and Rose Stroman-Morris. She has a brother, Michael, of Greenville, and a sister, Pam, of Eutawville.
Stroman says she is "so blessed."
"My parents always raised us to understand that it's better to give than to receive. I think that's a task that we all need to set ourselves to help each other in life. ... and the more you give, the blessings will come back to you tenfold," she said. "I get much contentment and personal happiness when I do what I know God has placed me on this Earth to do."
Stroman says it's not material goods that make a person happy.
"It's serving God and doing what he wants us to do and then helping our fellowman," she said.
When Stroman talks about her students as "my children," she means it.
"I told my parents in my last newsletter that I was honored that they would let me call their children my children. I never had children, so they're my babies," she said.
Stroman praises the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
"It has been very instrumental in putting character traits in front of children, and recognizing people within the community makes people feel real good," she said. "It made me feel really special.
"Manners will take you so much further than your brain power."
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