Muhammad gets surprise visit from former East superintendent
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org January 8, 2013 6:48PM
Charles Ponquinette (right), former superintendent of the East Aurora School District, greets his godchild and founder of Boys II Men, Clayton Muhammad, during a the West Aurora School Board meeting this week. The board recognized Muhammad's Boys II Men mentoring program for helping dozens of Aurora-area students during the past 10 years by promoting education, discipline, service, culture and brotherhood. | Submitted Photo
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:58PM
AURORA — During a ceremony to mark Boys II Men’s 10-year anniversary at the West Aurora School Board meeting Monday night, Clayton Muhammad was plenty thrilled to have a beautiful cake.
But the West Aurora district’s leaders had a much bigger surprise planned for the East Aurora School District spokesman and founder of the youth leadership group.
“The first thing I saw was a cake specially designed with Boys II Men,” Muhammad said. “Then (West Superintendent) Dr. (Jim) Rydland said: ‘We thought about what we would get you for 10 years.’ ”
Rydland picked up the phone, Muhammad said, and on the other end of the line was former East Aurora Schools Superintendent Charles Ponquinette, Muhammad’s godfather.
Ponquinette today lives in Hampton, Va., after retiring from East Aurora in 2001.
“I was very surprised,” Muhammad said Tuesday.
But the phone call was ruse. When the call was suddenly dropped, Ponquinette stepped out from behind a bookcase in the West High meeting room.
“Then I lost it. I had no clue,” Muhammad said. “I cried like a baby.”
He said seeing the Boys II Men students with his godfather was a “full circle moment.”
“We all spent time together afterward, and the same advice he passed on to me has been passed on to them,” Muhammad said. “(One student) said: ‘To see you cry for someone really wants to make me work harder.’ ”
Ponquinette said that Cynthia Latimer, West Aurora’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, invited him back to surprise Muhammad. After retiring from East Aurora, Ponquinette went on to serve as vice president of Hampton University for seven years.
Ponquinette said he was very proud to see Muhammad accomplish so much.
“To see the respect and love (the young members of Boys II Men) have for Clayton — he’s a remarkable young man,” Ponquinette said.
Boys II Men and other youth groups played an important role in Aurora’s no-murder year in 2012, he said.
“There’s no question that the kind of programs (Muhammad) has developed and the NJROTC at East High certainly have had an impact on the quality of life in the community,” Ponquinette said.
This is the second honor Muhammad has received this month for his work with young people in the community.
Last week, Muhammad was named a Center of Influence, a U.S. Army award honoring community leaders. As part of the honor, he was a guest of the Army during a five-day trip in Texas ahead of the All American Bowl.