Community Celebrates Former Arnold Elementary Educator’s 80th Birthday

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The community celebrated local trailblazer and former educator Alverta Darden’s 80th birthday with a Hoyle Lane drive-thru party on August 30.

About 50 cars drove by, filled with former students, members of her church, people from her sorority and other organizations, and even a live band.

It took the entire family to convince Alverta, who thought the family was coming over for Sunday dinner, to go outside.

“It was not easy, because I'm not a person that you tell what to do,” Alverta said. “I’m very determined.”

Eventually, she went outside and was overwhelmed by all the people driving by.

“It's the first time since I've lived here, in over 50 years, that anything has ever happened like that,” Alverta said.

The band led the parade past Alverta’s home. Guests waved and dropped off gifts as they drove by. Alverta described the parade as “beautiful.”

“It is something that she has never experienced and something that gives her the accolades and gratitude while she's still living,” said Alverta’s younger brother, John Darden.

Alverta grew up on a farm off Gilbert Road in Arnold during segregation, and she was not allowed to attend the old Arnold Elementary, which is now the Arnold Senior Center. Years later, Alverta decided that she wanted to be an educator.

“She sets goals and she went for it,” said Margurite Askew-Kirkland, Alverta’s younger sister. “Growing up on a farm with limited funds, she worked and put herself through school with whatever our parents were able to provide. She has been successful because she is an achiever.”

Alverta received her teaching certificate from Bowie State University, and was assigned to Arnold Elementary, which has since moved to its current location on East Joyce Lane. Alverta was the first Black teacher at the school. She stayed at Arnold Elementary for 37 years. Although many people will say she was tough, she made a huge impact on the lives of her students.

“She was very firm as a teacher,” said Chris Cain, who had Alverta as her third-grade teacher. “She didn't take any mess. It taught me that there were consequences for your actions.”

Cain said she has carried that lesson with her throughout her adult life.

She works on several scholarship committees, including the Tribute to Women of Color organization that was founded by her sister in 1993. The organization awards over 30 scholarships a year to students in Anne Arundel County. Kirkland said Alverta has even helped scholarship recipients purchase textbooks or meet needs with her own money.

Alverta went above and beyond what was expected of her as an educator and as a member of the community for the sake of the children.

“She took children under her wings, ones who were motherless and fatherless,” John said. “I think that’s something you can't overlook.”

At her church, Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Crownsville, Alverta has always been involved in some capacity, serving as an usher and helping out with the youth.

“She is a member of my church, so I have known her since I was a little girl,” said Angela Hawkins.

When Hawkins went away to school, Alverta would send her notes with scripture, advice and stories to keep her up to date on the community.

“Even at my first job, which was away, she would still keep up with me,” Hawkins said. “When I moved to California, she would send a note every now and then. She was just always present and positive for the young people.”

Alverta offered the same support to her family.

“I look up to her as a younger sister and seeing all of the things that she has accomplished in her life,” Kirkland said. “She has held this family together for so many years, no matter what adversities we’ve faced. She is the go-to person for encouragement.”

In her 80 years, Alverta has left her mark on so many people’s lives and there is no doubt that she will continue to inspire the community.

“I am so grateful that she is still here,” Cain said. “I thank God for another year and that she is here to touch another person’s life.”

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