PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – From an early age, Port Chester educator Byron Womack knew that playing sports was much more than just learning how to throw a football or run the bases; it was a character-building experience that would frame the rest of his life.
Womack’s ability to “go long” will be recognized this weekend when he is given the 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Committee Humanitarian Award at a celebration of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The community event is set for 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, at Port Chester Middle School where Womack is an assistant principal.
The award recognizes both Womack’s longstanding role as a mentor for children and his leadership in the Steer For Student Athletes program.
Steer’s mission, like Womack’s, is to help youngsters grow both personally, academically, and, of course, as athletes.
The nonprofit organization and its sponsor role models provide funding and services that help student athletes make it through high school and prepare for college or jobs.
Womack said Friday that he felt "blessed" to be part of the Steer team and to help it carry out its mission.
Steer started out as a pilot program in Port Chester and now is in the Yonkers school district and two schools in the Bronx.
"There are many great programs out there, like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but this one is unique in that it tailors its services to what each individual kid needs."
Some of those services include prepping for the SATs or ACTs, as well as workshops with sport psychologists who help the kids be "at their best mentally, whether it's in the classroom or on the playing field," Womack said.
Sunday’s celebration will include readings from King’s body of work as well as performances by the Community Choir, which is directed by Robert Mosely, and the Port Chester Middle School Chorus, directed by Mark Zizolfo.
The keynote speaker will be state Sen. George Latimer, D-Rye, a Westchester native who went to school in Mount Vernon. He represents the 37th District, which covers: Bedford, Bronxville, Eastchester, Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye, Rye Brook, Tuckahoe, White Plains and Yonkers.
Womack, who grew up in South Windsor, Conn., was on his high school’s varsity football and track teams.
He went on to set athletic records at Iona College in New Rochelle, where he earned a degree in social work.
After college he found his true vocation, counseling high school students and coaching local teams.
That led to other counseling gigs and eventually, to master’s degrees in school guidance, counseling and administration and supervision.
He has been assistant principal at the middle school for seven years.
The school is located at 113 Bowman Ave. in Rye Brook.
The annual King celebration is organized by an interfaith committee comprised of All Souls Presbyterian Church, Bethel Sounds of Praise, Bethesda Baptist, Christ’s Church, Christ Episcopal Church, Congregation Kneses Tifereth Israel, Girtman Memorial, Holy Rosary Roman Catholic, Mount Zion Baptist, Rye Presbyterian, St. Frances AME Zion, St. Paul’s Lutheran, St. Peter’s Episcopal, and the Port Chester School District.