Members of the Natchitoches community converged for the first Ben D. Johnson Educational Center’s I Tried Banquet as it conferred awards on three servants of the community in honor of the late Ben Johnson. The banquet also served as a platform for program administrator Darrin Nixon Jr. and director Bridgette Gustafson to highlight its reimagined workforce development opportunities, which is set to serve a broader clientele and offer an expanded range of skill certifications.
Mario Fox was recognized with the Rising Young Professional Award for both his leadership of Fox Realty Group and his service as a U.S. Army veteran, volunteer firefighter and community leader.
Gwendolyn Hardison was recognized with the Community Advocate Award based on her contributions to Natchitoches Parish Public Schools, the First Baptist Church youth choir and local service organizations.
Mayor Ronnie Williams Jr. was honored with the “I Tried” Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his leadership of the city during his first two years in office. As mayor, Williams has overseen the procurement of more than $17 million in federal funding and focused his efforts on improving and restoring infrastructure within the city.
Guest speaker Ed Ward, who now manages the Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home, spoke on Johnson’s legacy. “Mr. Johnson was the person who could look into the future and see what needed to be done to make the future better,” he said.
Ben Johnson Founder and President Claire Prymus closed the event by taking a moment to recognize the contributions made by event attendees to the center’s success. The Ben Johnson Educational Center is offering all Natchitoches residents age 17 and above who qualify for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program the opportunity to enroll in it’s Legacy Workforce Development Program.