PALM BEACH GARDENS – Education and black history have been interests of Ineria Hudnell for well over 60 years.
The veteran educator has devoted much of her life to enriching the lives of students in Palm Beach County as a teacher, dean, artist and historian. The Palm Beach County Caucus of Black Elected Officials will recognize Hudnell and two other women this weekend for their service and dedication to the community.
The recognition will come at the organization’s Women of Courage and Achievement Awards Luncheon at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott on Saturday, Nov. 7.
The other two honorees are Effie C. Grear, a retired educator, author and civic leader; and Elizabeth Wesley, a retired educator and civic leader.
Hudnell is a retired educator, artist and curator who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida A & M University in 1943.
She majored in English and French, but decided to become a teacher because of racial barriers.
“Education was about the only thing you could go into at that time,’’ she said. “Education or nursing, you didn’t have many careers you could go into for blacks.’’
Times have changed since she first started teaching, said Hudnell, who celebrates her 89th birthday on Nov. 29.
“Schools were segregated,’’ she said. “The first school where I was a teacher was in Gifford, near Vero Beach. The black section. I made $100 a month in the beginning.”
In 1982, Hudnell put together a collection of documents, articles, photographs and artifacts that record the history of African Americans in Palm Beach County.
“Visiting schools with the black history (of Palm Beach County) exhibit, I can see the difference in the students. Not all, but some,” she said. “Since they took prayers out of the schools, the system has been going down. Students have changed. During the time I was in the school system, we were well respected by parents and students.”
The West Palm Beach resident was an educator for 34 years, and has been retired for the last 32 years. She said young people seem to enjoy her ever-expanding black history exhibit.
“The students love it. They really react to it. Many times they see their parents or someone else they know,” she said.
“Once at a Washington Mutual Bank event, a young woman said she saw a picture of the midwife who delivered her. ‘I’m 36 years old and this is the first time I’ve seen her,’” she said.
In many of the pictures from previous decades, the men and women are conservatively dressed, with one exception.
“Children love the basketball pictures. The male players wore short shorts and now they’re down to the knees,” Hudnell said. “The students laugh every time they see this.”
The Norton Museum of Art and the Palm Beach County School District are collaborating on an exhibit that will feature artwork and writings by students who were inspired by Hudnell’s collection. The exhibit will be on display Nov. 14, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010.
Education has also been paramount in the life of honoree Effie C. Grear of Belle Glade, who was involved in public education for 51 years. Grear served as principal of Glades Central High from 1975 until her retirement in 2000.
She became an author in 2006 with her first book, Up From the Muck, featuring success stories about students from the Glades area.
During the same year, Grear received the “Rock of the Community” educational award presented by former professional athlete Ricky Jackson.
Elizabeth “Libby” Jackson Wesley is a native of DeFuniak Springs, in the Florida Panhandle, and credits her strong commitment to community service to her parents.
Wesley’s professional career spans over 37 years as a classroom teacher, program manager, and the first African American to serve as a Palm Beach County School District teacher/producer.
Wesley currently lives in Delray Beach, and has helped to successfully lobby for legislation to improve the quality of childcare in Florida.
St. Lucie County Administrator Faye W. Outlaw will be the guest speaker at Saturday’s luncheon.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: 2009 Women of Courage & Achievement Awards Luncheon, sponsored by the Palm Beach County Caucus of Black Elected Officials.
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7.
WHERE: Palm Beach Gardens Marriott, 4000 Rca Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens. 561-622-8888.
DONATION: $45 per person.
CONTACT: 561-386-1350 or Signatureaffair@Aol.com.