First Awards Banquet in Chattanooga!
For the past 4 years, Chattanooga and Atlanta have shared their Carson Scholar Award ceremonies at a venue in Georgia. For the first time in their chapter history, the awards banquet was held in Chattanooga! What better place to have it than the esteemed University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, fondly known as UTC.
Almost 300 educational enthusiasts gathered in the student center’s Tennessee Room for the event. Emcee David Carroll of local NBC affiliate WRCB-TV was born in Bryant, Alabama, only 5 miles from Chattanooga. Mentioning that this is one of 9 awards ceremonies presented in the United States this spring was how he started the program.
We were all thrilled to watch 30 first time winners and 18 repeat scholars from the 5 states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee process across the stage to the majestic strains of Procession of the Nobles.
2013 Carson Scholar, Aidan Smith, a 5th grade student with a strong interest in marine biology, patriotically led us all in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Candy Carson followed with another verbal show of appreciation for all the dedication, hard work, and sweat equity that goes into becoming a scholar as well as honoring these future leaders... from the scholars themselves, and their parents and guardians, to the educators, sponsors, volunteers, staff, and hosts of UTC. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes even more to make a Carson Scholar role model and future leader of the world!
Interim Chancellor of UTC, Dr. E. Grady Bogue was escorted to the stage by one of the scholars, as tradition. Dr. Bogue’s musings centered on the idea that investing in these young men and women gives us all hope for the future. He concluded with how you never want to give a college president a chance to speak to potential students, and of course he followed with a not too subtle plug for them to attend his university!
The blessing was brought to us by 2013 Carson Scholar, Emma Fancher. As a 10th grader, she is committed to providing volunteer service to children with special needs in her community. Her humble entreaty included a request that the event inspire each and every one to share the gifts they possess; and that God guide each down the paths they are led since only He knows the plans for our lives.
Alumni scholar reflections were brought to us by 2-time Carson Scholar, Whitney Graham, a Chattanooga native, and the first Carson Scholar to win in the city of Chattanooga! She is currently a sophomore majoring in English and minoring in Spanish at Tennessee State. A career in public policy is her ultimate goal.
Whitney’s idea that “a Carson Scholar is NOT a state of being, it is an ever–evolving process” is one that not only contains a need to fulfill community service and achieve educational excellence, but focuses primarily on helping others reach their maximum capacity. She appreciates the door that Carson Scholars opened for her to be in 4 honor societies as well as a study abroad student, and the opportunities it provided for her to not only lead but to create a path for others to follow. She concluded with, “by accepting this designation, you have embedded in your psyche a call to live and epitomize the values of a Carson Scholar!”
Introducing Dr. Carson at this event was 4-time Carson Scholar, Casey Walden. An enthusiastic participant of Model United Nations activities, she is planning a career in International Relations. Casey spoke of how Dr. Carson overcame many obstacles to become a world-renowned neurosurgeon. When she became a Carson Scholar and learned of Dr. Carson’s spiritual life, he became her personal role model. That motivation propelled her into the position of chair of the 2012 Southeastern High School Model United Nations Conference’s Commission of the Status of Women. And she has been chosen to be the Director General for the 2013 conference!
Prior to Dr. Carson’s speech, he was joined by Mrs. Carson to honor Rebecca Smith, Director of Scholarships at the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga for demonstrated excellence in serving the at-risk youth of their program by providing them with superior guidance and care, resulting in a 75% graduation rate, well exceeding the national rate of 58% for all college students! In the dozen years Rebecca Smith has been in this position she has mentored her ever changing group of some 350 young people and produced over 3,000 graduates! Rebecca’s look of surprise as she received the award was priceless!
“As a man thinks, so is he” is one way of looking at Dr. Carson’s philosophy on human potential. He cited his academic differences from the time he was at the bottom of his class, to the time he was at the top of his class. People will live up or down to expectations. If you set your sights high, you are more likely to achieve your goal. And if a person has a normal brain, he can do pretty much anything. All we have to do is adequately program those 3 pounds of gray matter. Some people say that you have to be careful not to overload your brain. However, the brain cannot be overloaded. If you learned one fact per second, it would take over 3 million years to begin to challenge the capacity of this amazing organ. Therefore the person who has the most with what happens to you….is you!
Peter Cooper, President of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga joined Dr. Carson and Candy on the stage. For the awards process, as David Carroll called out the names of the honorees, Dr. Carson placed the medal on their shoulders, Mr. Cooper presented the certificates and Candy couldn’t help but hug each of those future leaders of America!
A very special thanks to Verizon Wireless of Atlanta and Ms. Sheryl Sellaway for their continued generous support of the Carson Scholars in Georgia, consistently giving for the past three years; and Peter Cooper, Michelle Hunter and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga as well as Mike Taylor and the Mountain Education Foundation for their outstanding continuous support. Also, special thanks to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Dr. Bogue and Emily Forrest for their help in making this event so wonderful for all who attended.
To view more pictures from the event, visit the album on our Facebook page.
To read more updates from the Chattanooga chapter, click here.