National Achievers gather for conference
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.
True success is about liking yourself, liking what you do and being satisfied with who you are.
That was the message delivered by motivational speaker Michelle Smith, a Gainesville attorney and life strategist, at the 15th annual I-10 National Achievers Society Conference, held Saturday at Santa Fe College and attended by nearly 170 National Achievers in kindergarten through 12th grade from Gainesville, Lake City and Tallahassee.
National Achievers are high-achieving students in kindergarten through 12th grade who have been inducted into the National Achievers Society, formerly the McKnight Achievers. Inductees are students who demonstrate high academic achievement and excellence in behavior.
Born and raised in Delray Beach, Smith, 40, holds a law degree, a master's in exercise and sports sciences, and a bachelor's in anthropology from the University of Florida.
Smith began her program by asking students, "How do you define success"?
One girl raised her hand and said, "To reach your goals."
Another girl said, "Reaching what you really want to do in life."
Smith said success can be measurable or immeasurable, visible or invisible. "We set goals for our students to be successful," Smith said. "Honors and accolades are awesome."
Although success is often defined by the measurable or visible, Smith said success should be defined by who you are.
"Success is liking who you are, liking what you do, and loving how you do it," said Smith, who also talked about the importance of treating others kindly, being honest with yourself and others at all times.
"True success comes from the inside," Smith said. "In real-life situations, you will have an opportunity to decide who you're going to be and how you will define yourself."
Following her speech, the students — grouped by grade — attended workshops in such topics as nutrition, anti-bullying, setting boundaries, respecting oneself and others, self-esteem, STEM or science, technology, engineering and math; personal safety, the universe, and dual enrollment at Santa Fe College.
Harriet Stafford, director of the Center of Excellence at Santa Fe College, said the criteria for National Achievers includes maintaining "A" and "B" grades, demonstrating excellence in citizenship, performing community service and providing letters of reference.
She said the Santa Fe College chapter meets once a month at the college. She said national achievers also perform community service projects, such as collecting and donating personal items to the homeless.
Applications for students in kindergarten through 11th grade will be available the first week in February at the guidance office in your child's school or by calling Stafford at 352-381-7086 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"These kids are bright and gifted," said John Cowart, the community liaison representative of the National Achievers Society and former assistant vice president of student affairs at Santa Fe College.
Cowart said National Achievers participate in brain bowl competitions in African-American history and math and they do community service, such as preparing meals and doing landscaping at the Ronad McDonald House, a temporary home of family members of young sick Shands patients. The students have also volunteered on missions to Haiti.
The next brain bowl African-American history and culture competition will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in Room R-01 at the northwest campus of Santa Fe College.
Cowart said parents provide support and assistance to the program. "The program will not work without parents," Cowart said.
Mollie Wright, a member of the National Achievers Society Board of Directors and the mother of a National Achievers alumni, said the program has made a difference in her son's life. She said her son, Kurt Wright, 24, participated in National Achievers here in Gainesville from kindergarten through 12th grade. He graduated from the Eastside High School IB program and earned a bachelor's in business administration with a minor in marketing from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
"The program exposes you to a lot of education opportunities and teaches to give back" said Wright.