Going the Extra Mile
By Rev. Kenya A. Thompson
Director of Leadership Development and Education
Rev. Derrick Henderson has played a crucial role in supporting the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School and childhood literacy at Emmaus House, working with the youth and families who live in Peoplestown neighborhood, located a mile south of downtown Atlanta, who utilize the services available at Emmaus House for over 20 years.
“No job is too big or too small when it comes to helping students learn to read and develop a love of reading,” said Henderson.
As transportation coordinator and van driver, Henderson ensures that scholars who need transportation arrive safely and on time. He also provides transportation to field trips and enrichment activities. His commitment to serving others and giving back to the community is evident in big and small ways each day.
Henderson goes the extra mile by calling parents and guardians when he’s on the way so that they don’t have to wait outside. He makes it a point to get to know the students, greeting them every morning with a smile and words of encouragement.
On Mondays he asks students what books they read over the weekend—reinforcing our program’s mission and our staff’s work. He gives students treats when he sees them reading on the van or when teachers tell Henderson they did a good job in class.
He also volunteers to work at the front desk in the reception area after the morning transportation rush until it’s time to drive the van. He cheers up students who may feel sad or upset, and he gets breakfast for students who arrive late to Freedom School.
Henderson’s belief in the work of literacy action is evident, because his three grandchildren attend Freedom School at Emmaus House.
“I can see the difference in my grandchildren’s confidence as readers,” he said. “I know that everyone can make a difference in the lives of our children.”