Masonic Awards are Still Going Strong after Nearly 90 Years

Retired Navy Capt. Jack Evans was a second-class seaman assigned to the battleship USS Tennessee when he awoke December 7, 1941, to the sounds of war as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

“Everything was on fire. There was fire everywhere,” recalled Evans, in an oral history provided to the website Witness to War. “Even the paint was burning on my ship. The flames were so hot in the stern that it melted the rivets, great big rivets.”

Evans, who received a Purple Heart after suffering shrapnel wounds in the attack, was among the representatives of Chula Vista Masonic Lodge #626, who on April 16 presented citizenship awards to sixth-grade students at nearly 45 schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. If Evans represents “living history,” so do the Masons.

The Masonic Awards are in their 89th year in CVESD. The awards program is the lodge’s highlight of “Public Schools Month.” The recognition was first sponsored by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of California in the 1920s. It is promoted every April, with the goal of encouraging the community’s support for public education.

The Chula Vista Lodge was founded in 1925, and by the following year started a tradition of honoring CVESD students for good citizenship as part of Public Schools Month. Many of the representatives this year have been a part of the awards program here for decades, recalling when there were only a handful of school in the District. They witnessed the region’s growth—and the schools’ growth as well.

“Our members who take part in this visitation look forward to being a part of an uplifting program that highlights what we as Americans try to uphold—being good citizens.  Our Lodge is very appreciative of the school district’s exemplary efforts to create a very well organized, and executed awards program,” said Terry Stewart, Secretary of the Chula Vista Lodge.

The student honorees were selected by their teachers using criteria that included behavior, participation in school activities, respect for others, or leadership within peer groups.

Many former award recipients are now in public service, including teachers at District schools that welcomed this year’s Masonic teams. Thurgood Marshall Elementary Principal Scott Woodward received a Masonic award when he was a student.

“The Masonic Awards are near and dear to my heart because I won the award in 1973,” Woodward said. “Being a good citizen means caring for your fellow classmates, your school, community and family—being an example for what is right through your actions and words.”

As part of the awards program, District representatives accompany Masonic team members to the schools. Because of the high number of District schools, 15 teams of District and Masonic representatives fan out across the District.

“Our students, staff members and parents fully understand the value of community partnership, and this awards program is a shining example of what our local schools mean to our community,” said Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D. “The message of support for free public education is as important today as it was in the 1920s, when the Grand Lodge began this program.”

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