AAHRA awards a top local student

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2000

Features Editor

Sept. 13, 2000 10 PM

Vernon Shank can think of two defining moments in his life – one when he entered the classroom of a wise and understanding teacher and the other when he saw his grandmother cry.

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Both of those memorable events occurred within a year of each other and together, they helped shape his future.

Shank is the recent recipient of a $1,000 Alabama Association of Housing and Redevelopment

Authorities Exhibitors/Professional Scholarship.

"Vernon is just an outstanding young man and we are so proud of him,"

said Mary Starling, executive director of the Troy Housing Authority. "He is a hard worker and he wants to get ahead in life. He has worked with our tutorial program for two years and shown outstanding leadership capabilities. We know that Vernon will be successful in whatever he chooses to do in life."

Shank is certain of his choice in life. He wants to be a teacher.

Perhaps, first he will teach on the secondary level but his goal is to be a college professor.

"When I was in tenth grade, I had a male teacher and he made such an impression on me that I decided teaching was what I wanted to do," Shank said. "He came in each morning and, for about 15 minutes, we would just talk about things that students were interested in – like football. Then, we would have class. I liked the way he influenced his students. I liked the way he handle discipline problems and I saw myself doing that."

Shank views the art of passing on of knowledge as a noble calling.

"Passing on knowledge to the younger generation is the greatest thing you can do," he said. "Students come to you as a blank sheet of paper, so to speak, and you help them fill it in. Passing on knowledge is what I want to do. I want to teach."

The "calling" came to Shank when he was about 15, but had it not been for his grandmother, Froshie Williams, he might have taken a different route."

"I lived with my grandmother almost all of my life until I came to Troy to live at the Troy Housing Authority with my mother and brother two years ago," Shank said. "My grandmother spent a lot of time with me talking about my future. She kept a close check on my homework and my school work. She kept such close tabs on me that sometimes I got real tired of it but now I’m so glad she did."

Shank said he wasn’t

a perfect young man or even a near perfect one. At the moment his life "reached an all-time low," his grandmother sat down with him for the most serious talk of his life – and she cried.

"That was the first time I had seen her show emotion like that," he said. "That had an effect on me. That was a turning point in my life."

Shank’s grandmother’s tears turned him back to the place of his calling and he has not veered from it.

"I know what I want to do and I know what it will take to get there and I’m willing to do what it takes," he said. "I appreciate the confidence that the Housing Authority Association placed in me in awarding me this scholarship. I’m going to work hard and do my best. I want to be deserving of their trust.’

Shank is a freshman at Troy State University. In addition to the AAHRA scholarship, he also received a Partnership Award scholarship and he is working with the Troy State University Athletic Department

as a backup statistician for sporting events.

Scholarships are awarded annually by the AAHRA to outstanding young people who have a strong desire to further their educations and a willingness to make a commitment to that end. This year the AAHRA awarded $16,000 in scholarships through its program.