Rotary honors 146 students from 4 local schools
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
For the 34th successive year, Atmore Rotary Club continued to “build a tradition of excellence” through the recognition of local and area students who stood head and shoulders above most of their classmates.
The local civic group’s annual Academic All-Stars program, held Thursday, May 9, at Escambia County High School’s Hodnette Auditorium, resulted in certificates of achievement for 146 students in grades 9-12 at Atmore Christian School, Escambia Academy, ECHS and Northview High School. It also resulted in the awarding of more than $20,000 in scholarships.
“Thanks to generous advertisers and sponsors, we are able to give around $20,000 in scholarships this evening,” said Mary Beth Lancaster. “We’ve been able to increase the scholarships, so those who were Academic All-Stars four years in a row will get $700 each; those with three years in a row will get $450; those with 2 years will get $350, and the seniors who earned it for the first time received $250 each.”
Two Escambia High students — Johnika Roberts and Darrica James — were recipients of, respectively, the Randolph B. Luttrell Sr. Memorial Scholarship and the William and Mary Grissett Memorial Scholarship. Each of those awards carried a $2,000 endowment.
The academic recognition ceremony was conducted before a crowd of about 400 people, including Escambia County Superintendent of Education John Knott, Assistant Superintendent Beth Drew and Board of Education Chairman Willie J. Grissett and Mayor Jim Staff.
Knott expressed his satisfaction with the Rotary program and its focus on academic achievement.
“This has been one of the most outstanding programs of its kind in the state,” the school superintendent said. “There are multitudes of communities coming together, and everybody is here for the students. It’s not about what school you went to, or your child goes to, it’s about the kids. They’re here to celebrate what their kids have done.”
Nine students received special recognition for earning Academic All-Star status for four straight years. Those students are Dalton Dewayne Hamilton (NHS), Alexis Ann Hollinger (EA), Kyle Andrew Hostetler (ACS), Christiara Jones (ECHS), Seth Killam (NHS), Mary Thompson Lancaster (EA), Johnika Roberts (ECHS), Olivia Rayleen Simmons (ECHS) and Adonis Williams (ECHS).
This year’s featured speaker was Aylia McKee, who oversees a staff of 42 as director of the Public Defender’s Office for Montgomery County.
McKee quoted Aristotle and Robert Kennedy while driving home a message encouraging continued excellence that doesn’t rely on comparisons to their peers.
“You do not have to beat anyone to be a leader,” she said. “You have to beat laziness, procrastination and peer pressure. Excellence will always entail hard work. The difference between dreams and reality is action.
“You might not be the captain of the team, but you could lead the team in scoring. You might not be the editor of the paper, but you might write the award-winning story. Always remember that actions are more important than titles. And put God first, no matter the circumstances.”
She used an analogy involving three pots of boiling water and a potato, an egg and some coffee beans
“The potato, egg and coffee beans each faced some adversity, and each acted differently,” she said. “The coffee beans were unique in that they changed the water, created something new.”
She also stressed that choices, along with the consequences of them, will play a major role in success or failure.
“Each one of you, like all of us who came before you, will be judged on the choices you make,” she explained. “It all comes down to making the right choices. Please understand each accomplishment you are being honored for tonight; please remember to make the act of making good decisions a repetitive process. You can remain a coffee bean, or you can become the potato or egg.”
“If you could put all these kids into the same school, you would have the best school in Alabama,” noted ECHS Principal Dennis Fuqua. “It blows my mind every time.”
Geri Albritton, mother of honoree Addison Claire Albritton, said she and husband Olan can take little credit for the success of their daughter, a junior at Northview.
“She has enough determination and self-motivation that I don’t have to do a thing but feed her,” laughed Mrs. Albritton.