Troy Exchange Club

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2001

honors ‘Youth of the Year’


Staff Writer

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Several area high school seniors are serving as "Youth…Igniting the spirit of Voluntarism Across America."

In recognition for their efforts, the Exchange Club of Troy honored them on Thursday and announced the club’s female and male Youth of the Year award winners.

Elizabeth Walker of Pike Liberal Arts School and Michael Lang of Pike County High School were names the winners of this year’s awards. They were selected based on their school activities, community service, special achievements and an essay.

Nominees for Youth of the Year are students from the four area high schools. Each school selects a male and female for the honor.

In her essay, Walker wrote, volunteering is a way young people can "express themselves and become caring and responsible adults. It allows us to feel good about what we are doing and to know that we have done the right thing. Often times, we are given so much that we do not know what real work is. Volunteering allows us a taste of work and a way to find acceptance. Teens’ hearts are full of love; sometimes, we just need to be shown where to direct it."

Walker is the daughter of Averyt and Brenda Walker. The valedictorian of her class, she has a 3.979 grade point average. Her achievements include: Who’s Who Among American High School Students, National Honor Society president, Shiloh Baptist Church pianist, Farm City Youth of the Year nominee, 21 Club president, PLAS junior class president, senior class secretary and senior Homecoming attendant.

Lang, in his essay, acknowledged different reasons for volunteering.

"Some students volunteer out of a sense of moral obligation ­ the pastor on Sunday morning makes a case for a certain cause and enlists a string of people to give of their time. Some students volunteer because they learn from their parents that it is a good tax write-off. I even spoke to one student, recently, who considered the community service he was assigned as volunteer work. I make no judgments on any of their reasons, but, for the most part, I offer my time as a volunteer with totally different motivation. I volunteer because it allows me to experience the joy of others."

The son of Merilyn Lang has a 3.85 GPA at Pike County High School. His accomplishments include: Outstanding Cadet Leader in ROTC, First Place Platoon Commander of ROTC, first place in state male Poetry Interpretation, second place in state Prose Interpretation at the Trumbauer Festival, participant in sub-state tennis tournament, highest GPA in ROTC and highest GPA in art.

In addition to Lang and Walker, Heather Baggett of Goshen High School, Sherika Lampley-Johnson of PCHS, Emily Watkins of Charles Henderson High School, Andy Sanders of PLAS and Scott Stetson of CHHS.

Baggett, who is the daughter of Donnie and Pat Baggett, wrote about how America’s teenagers are "showing that they care for their community and country, and want to give back some of what has been given to them" by volunteering.

"These students are joining organizations that promote voluntarism…All across America, youth are volunteering with all kinds of organizations," she wrote in her essay.

She has a 3.7 GPA at GPA. Her accomplishments include: United States National Leadership Award, All-American Scholar, Who’s Who Among American High School Students, Semper Fidelis Award for Musical Excellence, superior ratings at solo and ensemble competitions, principal clarinet at Jacksonville State University’s Honor Band and Most Outstanding Band Member.

Lampley-Johnson, who has a 4.0 GPA, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rickey Johnson. Her accomplishments include: All-American Scholar, Who’s Who Among High School Students, All-State Cheerleading, first place in State Prose Interpretation, Agnes Scott Award, Future Black Leadership Award and Female Youth of the Year.

For her, voluntarism is a selfish act.

"Yes, selfish. I give of my time, my energy ­ my heart ­ to see smiles, to hear laughter, to feel needed…When the man and his son stand ringing the bell in front of the red Salvation Army bucket on cold, windy December evenings, he does so because he believes that his act of service is making a difference in his world; he knows he is making a difference in his son’s world."

Watkins, a 3.8 GPA student at CHHS, is the daughter of Keith and Terry Watkins. She was a representative from Alabama for the TRUTH Summit Conference in Seattle, Wash., won the Presidential Award for Community Service, set the CHHS cross country record for the 5K run, was on the school’s state finalist softball team, has been a Teen Advisor and Teen Advisor Honor Council member, is Icthus Christian Club president and received the Most Improved Player Award (softball) at CHHS.

In her essay, Watkins included statistics of youth volunteer efforts.

"Thirteen million teens, more than half of America’s teen population, volunteered in 1995," she wrote. "They gave an estimated 3.5 hours per week, totaling 2.4 billion hours of volunteer time.

"Voluntarism is offering the time and energy to serve someone else’s needs. By looking toward the needs of others and contributing to change, voluntarism decreases suffering and heart ache, while the volunteers gain skill, joy, self-esteem and changes in their own lives. Volunteers work to improve the lives of others and, in return, improve their own."

Sanders is the son of Harry and Becky Sanders. He has a 3.958 GPA and is salutatorian of PLAS. His accomplishments include: Student Government Association vice president, varsity basketball Most Improved Player, YMCA Youth Legislature, class treasurer, Wiregrass Bible Award, Youth Leadership Pike and Who’s Who Among American High School Students.

His essay encouraged volunteer effort at any age.

"Voluntarism should not only be youth oriented, but also a part of adult participation," Sanders wrote. "Just as the former president urges youth people to get involved, adults should take this challenge also. The youth may be the future of our country, but voluntarism has a need for everyone today."

The son of Rick and Toni Stetson has a 3.9 GPA at CHHS. He was area winner of the Bryant-Jordan Scholar Athlete, member of Youth Leadership Pike, co-captain of the Prep Bowl Team, made all A’s his entire high school career, tied for first place in weight class at district power lifting meet, Teen Advisor, member of the National Honor Society, secretary of the Future Business Leaders of America and had the leading roll in the school play.

"Anyone can help another person," Stetson wrote. "There is no age limit to volunteering. However, it is the youth that can really spark the greatest impact. Volunteering at a young age is excellent because it will form a habit of generosity that the person will be able to maintain through his or her lifetime…Another advantage to having our youth volunteer is that they would influence other young people to do the same."

In addition to a plaque, the winners each received $300 checks and all nominees received checks for $50.

Land and Walker will advance to the district Exchange Club Youth of the Year competition.