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Principal Watts’ legacy to live on after retirement

Photo by Tevin Stinson- Principal Richard Watts

Principal Watts’ legacy to live on after retirement
June 22
04:35 2017

When high profile professional athletes call it quits, often a statue is erected outside the stadium, gymnasium, or ballpark where the athlete spent most of their careers.

For example, the iconic jumpman statue outside the United Center in Chicago in honor of Michael Jordan.

On Friday, June 30 longtime principal Richard Watts will officially step down from his post at Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy (WSPA). Although there won’t be a statue of Watt hitting a homerun or dunking a basketball placed outside the school on Cameron Avenue, earlier this month students and staff made sure Watts legacy will continue to live on at WSPA when they announced the establishment of the Richard Watts Scholarship Fund.

“The scholarship was a total surprise. That was the best thing they could have given me as a retirement gift,” said Watts. “It feels good to know that long after I’m gone, there will be funds here to support students.”

The scholarship is expected to be for $1,000 and will be awarded for the first time later this summer to a recent graduate headed to a four-year college or university. Each year Watts will select a different student to receive the scholarship.

Watts, who joined the “Phoenix Family” just before the start of the 2007 school year, said what made him decide to take the position was the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of students who were just like him growing up.

“This school is full of first-generation college students and I was the first in my family to graduate college,” continued Watts. “I knew I could come here and share my stories and my struggles and really make a difference. If I can do it, a child from poverty, then they can, too.”

Although the school was still fairly new when Watts took over as principal in 2007 he admits it took some time to get adjusted to students, faculty, staff, and the “WSPA Way.” He said after the initial growing pains everyone started to feel like a family. After connecting with the students in the hallways, Watts set his sights on engaging the surrounding community. And that’s exactly what he did. Today the school partners with several nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, and local businesses to host community wide events in the East Winston neighborhood including an annual health fair held at 14th Street Recreation Center. Watts said he has always been a firm believer in supporting students at school and in the community.

“It takes all of us together to make children successful,” he said. “I’ve always believed that the community should take ownership of the school and the school should take ownership of the community.”

Although he won’t be at the school every day, after he retires during an interview with The Chronicle last week, while admiring photos of every graduating class he’s seen come through the halls of WSPA, Watts said he will still be around to support the students and faculty any way he can. Watts, who will continue his pastoral duties at Rickards Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Wilkesboro, said, “Anything I can do, whether it’s an after-school program or whatever, I’m going to do whatever I can to support Prep.

“I’ve enjoyed every young person who has came through that door,” Watts continued. “There has been some challenges, but you have to press on, and that’s the message I tried to share with all my students.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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