Serving as a merchant of hope to children, parents and staff.
That is the goal Erick Witherspoon sets for himself each day, as he serves as principal of Lena M. Preston Elementary School in Rialto.
"The phrase ‘merchant of hope’ really speaks to me because it describes the work that we should be doing,” Witherspoon said. “The belief is that no matter what obstacles might exist, success can occur with hard work and perseverance. It says that failure is not an option."
And with Witherspoon at the helm, students at Preston are making strides. In 2006, the school received the California School Board Association’s prestigious Golden Bell Award, recognizing a variety of innovative programs. The school’s students also have made dramatic gains on state achievement tests.
Witherspoon says that at Preston and in the community as a whole, he strives to always advocate for the needs of all kids—regardless of their backgrounds. This personal commitment, he says, has been strengthened by his experiences at the University of Redlands, where he earned a master’s in education administration and is now a student in the doctoral program.
“Redlands has reaffirmed who I am and the commitment that I have made. It has reaffirmed my tenacity – my ruthless conviction that we absolutely cannot give up on our kids.”