By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Four Escambia County Middle School students have a little more pride in themselves and a lot more cash in their pockets.
Each of the four received a certificate of achievement for his or her work, and the foursome shared a total of $1,000 in prize money for being among the top entries in the state in this year’s Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Essay, Video and Poster contest.
In the notification letter, ABC Board Administrator H. Mac Gibson expressed the agency’s congratulations.
“While our judges found it difficult at times to choose between so many outstanding entries, your students stood out among the best,” Gibson wrote.
Latabitha Burt was the big winner among the ECMS students. She placed first in both the essay and poster categories and was awarded $600 for her efforts ($300 in each category).
Her mother, Farrah Burt, and her brother Tevin were on hand as the youngster was presented her certificates and checks by ECMS Principal Takecia Barlow during a brief July 8 ceremony in the school library.
Ariyana Young earned $200 with her second place showing in the poster portion of the contest. She accepted her prizes as her mother, Marlo Young, looked on.
Tayshawn James took home $100 after his third-place finish in the essay portion of the statewide competition. His mother, Wyteria James, witnessed the presentation.
Isaac Manzano, who did not arrive until after the ceremony had wrapped up, stood alone in the school’s outer office area as he was hastily awarded a $100 check for his third-place essay.
Barlow said she had to wait an additional, agonizing month after receiving first notice of the awards before she could formally make the presentation to the students.
“I am glad to have the opportunity to present these individuals with some green,” laughed the ECMS principal. “I was very excited when I got the call about the awards, but I got another call that said there were some glitches, that they would have to make sure the students were actually declared winners. It took another month, but I like mail that comes with check attached.”
She cited worrisome statistics regarding the average middle school student and heaped more praise on the anti-drug and anti-alcohol efforts of the ECMS pupils.
“It was just outstanding, a job well done,” she said. “We wanted to make sure our students knew the dangers of drinking and driving and make sure they understand that they shouldn’t be doing it.
“Statistics show that many students have their first drink, with their parents, by the age of 6. By the time students reach middle school, most have probably already had some form of alcohol in their system, whether through peer pressure or from a family member.”
Barlow urged parents to keep their children moving in a positive direction and to let the youngsters spend a little bit of their prize money on themselves.
“Parents, I hope you will teach them to do something productive,” she said. “Let them splurge, spend a little on themselves, but also teach them how to save and establish something for themselves so they will be able to say, ‘this is actually mine’.”