Students receive awards at Exchange Club

Published 10:45 pm Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Troy Exchange Club’s second annual “Accepting the Challenge of Excellence” program recognized four students who have risen above the odds to become high school graduates at Thursday’s meeting.

The Exchange Club developed the A.C.E program to recognize students who overcome adversity, and whose accomplishments are often overlooked. The A.C.E. program awards each student recognized with a $100 check and then awards one student with a $1,000 check to go toward school-related expenses.

Goshen High School Senior Thomas James Rodgers won the $1,000 check for overcoming cancer-related obstacles set in front of him.

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Rodgers was diagnosed with cancer when he was five years old, and had to have his right arm and shoulder removed. His mother, Barbara Rodgers, said she remembers relying heavily on God when she found out her son had cancer.

“When T.J. was 5 years old, he was running back to the house after checking the mail with his grandmother, and he fell down. He wouldn’t stop crying, so we took him to the hospital,” Barbara said. “We found out he had broken his arm, and after a trip to the Dothan hospital, we found out he had Osteogenic Sarcoma, a very rare and very aggressive bone cancer. I was shocked, but I knew God was in control of everything.”

The doctors told Barbara Rodgers she needed to take her son to a specialist in Birmingham as soon as possible. In Birmingham, the Rodgers were met with a life-altering solution–arm and shoulder amputation.

“They told me that in order for my son to live past 6 years old, his right arm and shoulder had to come off,” she said. “I had no other choice. My church, my friends and my family stood behind us the whole time. The entire Pike County community stood behind us. My son is a blessing from God.”

Thomas Rodgers said he has never thought of himself as having a disability.

“I thank God every day that he allowed me to live and that he has given me this opportunity to be an inspiration for others,” he said. “The things that I’ve been able to do with one hand, others have to use two. I feel like God really has a use for me, and I’m never going to give up.”

Rodgers has helped lead the Goshen weightlifting team to winning three championship rings in a row, and will join the Troy University track team as a walk on, this summer.

“I have helped lead the weight lifting team to championships, I can squat 415 with my one hand,” Rodgers said. “I want others to know that if I can do it, they can do it.”

Rodgers plans on going to Troy University and majoring in physical education or athletic training.

“I would like to work with kids with disabilities one day. I feel like I could really motivate them. There were times I thought I couldn’t do it, but I kept trying,” he said. “I feel like now is the time to give back to the community that helped me come so far. I’m so thankful for my mother’s guidance. She’s been on me like white on rice, constantly pushing me.”

Rodgers remains motivated to be successful.

“You know, you have to keep on trying,” he said. “You can’t ever stop just because you have something happen to you when you are young, you have got to push forward and be successful.”

A.C.E. program chair Diane Aman said Rodgers stood out because of the challenges he has overcome.

“He overcame enormous obstacles, and he has worked so hard to get to where he is now,” Aman said. “He has met every challenge he has ever faced with a grit and determination that is rarely seen. He is an inspiration to anyone who is faced with challenges. If T.J. can excel and graduate high school, then others can, too.”

Pike County High School senior Anna Arcemont and Charles Henderson High School seniors Brittany Daniels and Julie Money were also recognized by the Troy Exchange Club. All four seniors were given $100 checks.