They're Academic Scholars


Debbra Livingston says hello to Micari Wilson, 7, at the 8th annual Academic Scholars and Graduate Luncheon at the Paramount Plaza Hotel.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 3:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 3:18 p.m.

Words of wisdom and encouragement with large doses of praise ruled at the 8th annual Academic Scholars and Graduate Luncheon that honored 39 students who are members of the Gainesville Church of God By Faith.

Facts

ACADEMIC SCHOLARS

The following students received Academic Scholars medals:
— Kouvaris Coles Ford, first grade, Littlewood Elementary School.
— Mayah Gainey, second grade, Irby Elementary.
— Zuriel Reed, second grade, Norton Elementary; also received a trophy for Outstanding Academic Record.
— Armani Sheppard, second grade, Norton Elementary; also received a trophy for Outstanding Academic Record.
— Layna Gainey, third grade, Alachua Elementary; also received a trophy for Academic Excellence.
— Zion Reed, fourth grade, Norton Elementary.
— Alera Gainey, fifth grade, Alachua Elementary; also received a trophy for Academic Excellence.
— Tyeisha Sanford, seventh grade, Howard Bishop Middle School.
— Alisha Clayton, eighth grade, Lincoln Middle; also received a trophy for Weighted Academic Excellence.
— Zoe Reed, eighth grade, Westwood Middle.
— Kiara Ross Dixon, ninth grade, Eastside High School.
— Ariel Dykes, ninth grade, Gainesville High; also received a trophy for Weighted Academic Excellence.
— George Cudjo IV, 10th grade, Eastside High; also received a trophy for Weighted Academic Excellence.
— Tallishia Henderson, 11th grade, Professional Academies @ Loften High.
— Tamaria Henderson, 11th grade, Professional Academies @ Loften High.

More than 150 parents, family members, friends and admirers attended the banquet Saturday at the Paramount Plaza Hotel to honor the academic accomplishments by students in first grade through high school. The Academic Scholars program recognizes students who earn straight A's or make the A/B honor roll, academic excellence and outstanding academic record.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Michael Bowie, director of Education, Recruitment, Retention and Multicultural Affairs in the College of Education at the University of Florida. He addressed the theme, "If you can dream it and believe it, you can achieve it." "It's the story of my life," Bowie said.

During his speech, Bowie shared stories of his struggles growing up in the projects in Washington, D.C. Bowie, who holds a doctorate degree from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, said as a child, he loved watching the "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," an NBC television series on wildlife and nature.

He said he dreamed of working with animals and becoming a zoologist, farmer or veterinarian, but his behavioral issues at school, mainly playing the clown, were obstacles to his education and he needed to change his ways, which he did.

Bowie told the audience that his dreams came true because of his faith in God and the educational opportunities and scholarships he received. He even got to work with wild animals.

Bowie graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade point average and a full scholarship to Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., along with $10,000 each semester that he sent home to his family. "It's important to take care of those who take care of you," he said.

Bowie received a bachelor's degree in biology from Morgan State, a master's in veterinary science from Penn State University Park in Pennsylvania, and a fellowship from Tuskegee University in Alabama to study for two years at the University of Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. Afterward, Bowie worked as an assistant veterinary investigation officer in Swaziland in Southern Africa.

"You decide what you want to be," Bowie told the students. "Don't let anyone take that away from you."

Bowie said he is living proof that if you dream it, believe it, you can achieve your dreams. "It's true because I'm living proof," Bowie said. "I couldn't have done it if my faith in God had wavered. Keep God first in your life."

Graduating seniors Jo Jo Hutchinson and Christopher Salter also offered advice to the younger students. "Keep God first, stay in school, and everything will be alright," said Jo Jo.

"Follow the rules and listen to your parents," said Christopher. "Build your dream, and don't let anyone else build it for you."

In his closing remarks, Bishop James E. McKnight, pastor of the church, recognized Ann Copeland, founder and coordinator of the Academic Scholars program. "I feel she's going to have a blessing for taking so much time with other people's children," said McKnight, who also thanked attendees and encouraged the students to be the best they can be. "You don't know what you can do until you try," McKnight said. "Keep trying until you get it right."

Copeland, who organized the event, was pleased. At the end of every grading period, Copeland said students bring copies of their report cards. Those who get straight A's get $20 and those on the A/B honor roll get $15.

"We want them to understand that we're not paying them to learn, but that learning will help them to get paid," Copeland said.

During the program, Minister Derrick Gainey delivered the welcome and the occasion. Zion Reed, a fourth-grader at Norton Elementary School, offered the prayer and Alera Gainey, a fifth-grader at Alachua Elementary, recited "Climb Till Your Dream Comes True," by Helen Steiner Rice.

Ariel Dykes, a ninth-grader at Gainesville High School, blessed the food and church member Evelyn Langston introduced Bowie. Musical selections were provided by Faith Voices of the church.

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