By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
FRANKLINVILLE – Donald Bateman was taught at an early age by his parents to always give back to the community, and he has done that and more the past 11 years at Delsea Regional High School and now Delsea Middle School as a paraprofessional.
More importantly, in an area where Bateman may be one of the few African-Americans students may get a chance to interact with, the 66-year-old retired businessman has provided a positive role model for the young people attending classes there.
“Taking that role is very important to me,” said Bateman, a 1971 graduate of Delsea Regional High School where he was a second-team all-state athlete in football and baseball. “I knew when I was in school here, we had very few black faces we can look to. Now, there is a move in the school district for equality. In the last two years alone, we’ve hired five new African-American coaches. There is a big push in the school district to improve on that.”
Bateman, who earned a bachelor’s degree in health science from Tennessee Tech University later in life, remembered how he was discouraged from going to college when he was younger, making his return to Delsea with that education even more meaningful.
“I’m able to tell my story to students about where I came from and the hurdles I had go through to even get to college,” Bateman said. “Back then, I remember our guidance counselor my senior year actually telling African-Americans that you’re not qualified to go to school. You’re qualified to work in a factory or labor work.”
Bateman has worked as a paraprofessional for the Delsea school district for the past 11 years and has done some coaching at the high school level. Next year, he said he will qualify to referee high school football games and is a test away from umpiring varsity baseball games.
“I was born into sports,” Bateman said. “Being a product of the 1950s, my father was a very good athlete. His brothers were athletes. My brother was a very good athlete. It was my destiny to be involved in sports. I believe I can do anything that has a ball.”
Bateman worked as a purchaser for North Philadelphia Health Systems and golf industry before he was approached by former Delsea school superintendent and friend Frank Borelli about coming back to the school.
“He knew I was looking for a change,” Bateman said. “He thought that since I missed my calling earlier to come back to Delsea that I might be interested in coming back and helping out. The school was two miles down the road from my house and at that time gas was approaching $4 a gallon and driving back and forth from Philadelphia and Moorestown was expensive.
“I talked it over with my family and took that step. It was a new venture for me, a completely new step because I didn’t know anything about education. It has been working out for me. It’s been very special for me. The teachers have been nice and the administration has been very supportive.”
After 11 years, Bateman said he is happy that he made the move when he did. At the end of last month, one could see Bateman spending his weekend running around John Oberg Field helping officials at the NJSIAA Group 2 and Group 3 Track and Field Meet at the school.
“I’m very happy here,” said Bateman. “Yesterday was my 66th birthday and I spent it out here helping with the track meet. I’m enjoying being out here and watching the young people compete. This has been very fulfilling.”
In turn, Bateman has helped fulfill the lives of the students around him.