The Dart: Daniel gives back

Published 12:41 am Monday, November 28, 2011

Ralph Daniel, 60, has been an partner in education for Joseph L. Frazier Primary School since 1983. Daniel said that it’s “an honor to give back a community that gave so much” to him. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Ralph Daniel is an educator to Natchez children, even though he is not the one assigning homework, organizing lesson plans or leading from an administration desk.

Daniel has spent much of his time volunteering at Frazier Primary School. His mentorship philosophy is to reach children while they’re young and live by example.

“You can have a stronger impact on younger kids than older kids who have their minds made up about things,” said Daniel, who was at home last week where The Dart landed on Oriole Terrace in Natchez.

“What I want to give children is not what they learn in the classroom, and you can be sure that the fruits of that will show at an older age. This is the way I raised my children, and I see what a beautiful set of people they are.”

Daniel also spreads his volunteer efforts around the state, since he volunteers at his grandchildren’s school in Jackson. This has deep significance to him, since Daniel’s daughter was killed, and her children, now ages 8 and 11, were left behind.

“They need support,” Daniel said. “If they can weather these early years, they will be OK.”

Joseph L. Frazier, who is the school’s namesake, left an impression on Daniel as a student.

“The reason I am who I am today is because of Joseph L. Frazier and his wife,” Daniel said. “When I got out of school, I knocked around and volunteered with him.”

Daniel said his volunteer efforts include anything and everything at Frazier.

“I read (to students), stand around and chat, help talk to troubled children, assist teachers and do the Christmas float for the parade,” he said.

Daniel got his official start in school volunteer efforts when was an employee with International Paper Company for 21 years. The company sent volunteer representatives into local schools as a way of giving back to the community. For Daniel, the non-paying gig stuck.

“I did not sever the relationship with the school when IP closed,” Daniel said.

And before that, Daniel said his house was a hub for Natchez children, who were over constantly to play with his own children. He said those were good times.

“We would talk about problems and talk about life,” Daniel said.

His efforts have not gone unnoticed, though Daniel said being recognized and awarded leaves him with mixed feelings of pride and shyness. He has received multiple awards, certificates, plaques and trophies from the school district, and was even named Parent of the Year twice.

Daniel said at one awards ceremony, he had no clue that the long introduction was for him. Someone had to nudge him when his name was called.

“I did not know they were talking about me. I was rubber legged,” Daniel said. “I had no idea I would be nominated.”

He said those who nominated him wanted to keep it a surprise, because they knew Daniel would say “no” to being nominated.

Daniel is also a volunteer at his church, Zion Hill No. 1 Baptist Church where he helps with maintenance needs and the children’s department.

“Maybe I will have a little impact on somebody,” Daniel said. “And maybe that will help the world.”