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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Houston County Chamber of Commerce Honors Top Ten High School Students

By TERESA SETTLE NORRIS

Tennessee Express News Writer

* Last week the Houston County Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Academic Awards Banquet at Houston County High School.

* Honorees were the top ten students, academically, for each grade level, and they were allowed to invite up to three guests, including family and friends.

* The menu consisted of mouth-watering barbecue, baked beans, potato salad, slaw, desserts, and sweet tea.

* After dinner, Houston County Director of Schools Cathy Harvey welcomed everyone to the event.

* “This event is one that is very special to us,” Harvey said, adding that students often get recognized for sports or other reasons, but not so often for academic achievement.

“[These students] have risen to the top.”

* Harvey then introduced the Houston County High School wind ensemble, under the direction of Matt Whitt, which performed a difficult piece entitled Lux Aurumque (“Light and Gold”) by Eric Whitacre.

* Brad Averitt, a 2006 alumnus of HCHS, then gave the invocation before Betsy Ligon introduced the evening’s speaker.

* David Nichols, a 1971 graduate of HCHS, is a well-known trafficologist with Channel Five morning news.

* Ligon listed some of his many accomplishments, including holding a marketing degree, being a former D.J., producer, and talk show host on WSM-FM (1978);

* being program director for WLAC-FM (1983), being executive director of Country Radio Broadcasting, and being a teacher with the Connecticut School of Broadcasters, to name a few.

* Nichols gave a simple, straight-forward talk to the students, as well as the rest of the audience. He explained that he gives 22 reports each weekday morning for Nashville-area traffic.

* He said he is also an active member of Calvary United Methodist Church.

* “Having a sense of who you are and where you come from is very important,” Nichols explained, before giving a brief explanation of his Erin connections.

* Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Nichols moved with his family when he was very young after his dad, who was originally from Erin, became disabled in 1964. He attended fifth and sixth grade at the two-room Arlington School, where he fondly recalled having the Roby twins as his teachers.

* In seventh grade, he attended Erin Elementary School, where he was taught by the first male teacher he ever had: Bro. Robert “Bob” Mitchell.

* “He was a tremendous teacher,” Nichols recalled. “He was an even better role model.”

* Nichols said, “The teenage years hit me pretty hard,” and that Mitchell taught students “in such a calm way and such a kind way.”

* Nichols also had favorable words for another former teacher, who was also in the audience.

* “Nina Finley… was a terrific teacher, and she was also important to me,” Nichols said, stating that “Had I not paid attention in [her] typing class 40 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now.”

* Nichols shared several words with students: Opportunity, Persistence, and Expectations.

* With regard to opportunity, Nichols stated, “None of us get where we are by ourselves.”

* He added, “Keep your curiosity.”

* Nichols also used an analogy. “Life is a little bit like baseball; you have to do your best everyday.”

* With regard to persistence, Nichols quoted Calvin Coolidge, who said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not… Genius will not… Education alone will not.”

* Finally, about expectations, Nichols concluded, “There are things you want to do. There are things you want to be. Treasure every day.”

* Next, HCHS Principal Linda Jolly, with the assistance of Harvey and Ligon, recognized the following students with certificates:

* FRESHMEN: Leeann Baggett, Kaitlyn Boggs, Justin Cockrell, Matt Flatt, Mitchell Manners, Jill Mitchell, Kelli Parker, Riley Pitts, Sean Settle, and Sarah Thibault.

* SOPHOMORES: Piper Abdeh, Kelsi Clark, Mariana Hagler, Kaitlin Mobley, Allison Parker, Will Pryor, Clarissa Pulley, Chelsea Spurgeon, Brooke Torres, and Cale Wilson;

* JUNIORS: Cortez Almendarez, Jamie Brake, Zach Cleghern, Elyse Collard, Jesse Colston, Katie Gray, Amy Mitchum, Hope Perrigo, Ashly Roby, and Erin Williams;

* SENIORS: Brittney Clark, Brittany Deason, Ethan Dillard, Ashlyn Fussell, Morgan Gill, Kayla Meyer, Kayla Parker, Jessica Pate, Andrew Simmons, and Erik Simpson.

* Finally, on behalf of the Erin Rotary Club, Tommy Mitchell stepped up to present the Tennessee Scholars awards. Before doing so, however, he made a joke out of Nichols’ references to Bro. Mitchell (Tommy’s dad).

* “I was able to have him as a mentor for a lifetime so far,” he said, then he added his thanks to a former teacher, also present, Dewain Pryor.

* Mitchell also explained that he was presenting on behalf of Rotary President Jeff Rye, who was sick.

* The five Tennessee Scholars received medallions for taking a college prep curriculum and doing many hours of community service. They are as follows:

* Hanna Baggett, Brittany Deason, Morgan Gill, Andrew Simmons, and Tanisha Turner.

* Jolly gave the closing remarks by stated, “I want to thank all of you for coming out tonight. We are so proud of all of the students, and we enjoyed the speaker very much. A big thank you to the Chamber who makes this event possible.”

* Many accolades went to Chamber members Bettye McKinnon and Sharon McLeod for organizing the event.

* Other sponsors included Traditions Bank, A.E. Reynolds Insurance Agency, Bennetta James, Fred and Nina Finley, Byde Simpson, the Houston County Historical Society, Cleghern’s Grocery, and the Houston County Lions Club.

* Patrons included: Allen and Suzanna McCampbell, Temple-Inland, Kerry Powell Contruction Co., J.V. Averitt Lumber Co., Mitchum Drug Co., and Pryor’s Income Tax Service.

* Friends included: Kevin and Melinda Conwell, Bob and Bettye McKinnon, Donna Underwood, Price Florist, Billy and Barbara Alsobrooks, Glenn and Mary Chappell Ricketts, Randy and Ann Baggett, and Margaret Simpson.

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