Telegraph honors midstate seniors with Golden Eagles

A three-sport student athlete who earned a perfect score on the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test.

A Junior ROTC cadet who developed a program to help cover the medical bills of a classmate who has cancer.

A prized orator and essayist who will be the valedictorian of her graduating class.

These outstanding Middle Georgia students were among 24 high school seniors honored Tuesday at The Telegraph’s 32nd annual Golden Eagle Awards ceremony, held at the Grand Opera House.

The event recognizes students for their achievements in academics and the community, highlighting 12 areas from the arts to citizenship.

Winners were chosen based on application essays, school recommendations and interviews with judges in their fields of study. The students in the dozen categories received $1,000 and an eagle trophy. Recipients of the honorable mention prize received $300, and each nominee received a certificate.

“All of these nominees have distinguished themselves by their academic excellence and community involvement. Tonight, we will recognize and honor 146 seniors from 30 different high schools in Middle Georgia,” said George McCanless, publisher and president of The Telegraph. “Those who ultimately receive awards in each of our 12 categories have been judged according to their records of scholarship, leadership, service, character and by interviews with our judges.”

Who won what was kept secret until Tuesday evening.

Various midstate officials joined the students’ family members and friends, nearly packing the historic downtown theater. The First Presbyterian Day School Jazz Ensemble performed throughout the event.

Telegraph editors, reporters and employees presented the awards to the honorees, many of whom serve on The Telegraph’s Teen Board and contribute to the paper.

“I feel blessed and honored to have this opportunity,” said Chandrea Brown, a senior at Hawkinsville High School and nominee in the drama category.

Brown said her drama teacher approached her last year about entering the Golden Eagle Awards.

“She said, ‘You really need to look into this.’ Every opportunity I got, at school, in the community, at church, I was getting out there and working on my craft,” she said.

Recently, the 18-year-old, who will be attending Valdosta State University in the fall and hopes to major in pre-law, competed in the Georgia High School Association’s Literary competition, which has a drama component.

“Acting is a way to release frustrations, deal with problems, become a different person,” she said, “just like someone would play basketball or football. I love it.”

Brandyn Jackson, an 18-year-old at Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, said she was surprised by the Golden Eagle science award nomination. “It was very humbling because I had no idea I was going to get nominated,” he said. “I would like to win.”

Jackson, who plays on the school’s football and baseball teams, said he missed a “very important game” to attend the ceremony.

Science, said Jackson, an honors student with the highest chemistry average in his school, is the perfect subject.

“I’m kind of a logical thinker,” he said. “I don’t really think outside of the box.”

Payne City native and comic entertainer Durwood Fincher addressed the students.

Meredith McCoy, a First Presbyterian Day School student and a music award nominee, said she will continue to study the piano — she began playing 12 years ago — when she goes to college in the fall.

Being musical and sharing music with others have impacted her life, she said.

“I think a well-rounded student is what colleges look for, but also a well-rounded student is the best way to contribute to your community.”