On Friday, Dec. 11, Benjamin E. Mays High School hosted “Deuce Ace Drive In-Movie Night” for the Class of 2021. The first-ever event gave seniors an opportunity to view “Safety,” (2020) a Disney + film inspired by Ray McElrathbey, a Mays alumnus who made national headlines as a Clemson Tiger football player when he stepped in to raise his younger brother.
“We chose this film because we felt many students will be able to make a connection to the movie,” said Dr. Principal Mulanta Wilkins. “We wanted them to see that no matter how challenging your circumstances can be, you can triumph and overcome adversity. “Safety” also is a perfect example of ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ the African proverb that many of us reference in our communities. We also chose it because “Safety” premiered on Dec. 11, which was a perfect Friday where our seniors can enjoy a SELebration [Social Emotional Learning celebration] event while trying to maintain social distancing and adhering to Atlanta Public Schools preventative measures encouraged by the World Health Organization.”
COVID-19 procedures were strictly enforced. Masks were required upon entry. Students were not allowed to exit their vehicles unless they had to use the restroom; if so, they were escorted by a staff member. Additionally, only two students were allowed per vehicle, and permission slips were required.
“The pandemic has put a halt on many activities for students, especially our seniors,” said Assistant Principal Angela Powell. “We are so proud of our seniors and how they have remained resilient throughout this entire pandemic. Not only are they leading the entire building with a 95% attendance rate, but they have also been awarded $9.8 million in scholarship money so far.”
Thus, the Senior Academy Leadership team, led by Principal Wilkins, decided to plan a SELebration event for senior class officers and for all seniors currently passing all classes.
COVID-19 has limited fundraising activities, so the Senior Academy Leadership team reached out to Mays alumni, whose donations helped offset the expenses and make the event possible at no cost to students.
Students were provided with a snack pack that included a soda, bottle of water, popcorn, and candy/chocolate upon entering the parking lot. They were able to relax and watch the movie, which was transmitted through the radio in their vehicles.
“What resonated most to me about the movie was how he stepped up to take care of his little brother,” said Shayla Harris, a Mays senior. “I have friends now trying to help take care of and provide for their siblings because of what their parents are going through. It really does hit home.”
McElrathbey made a surprise appearance at the event, where he discussed the importance of the Mays legacy and giving back to the community. Students welcomed him by blowing their horns as a signal of confirmation and excitement.
“This was a great way to bring our senior class together despite COVID-19 and a great way to highlight a fellow alumnus,” said Travis Barnes, a Mays senior. “It was also a privilege to have an opportunity to meet him and watch how a young man from Southwest Atlanta had his story broadcasted by Disney. It’s amazing!”