Macon’s Grand Opera House was filled with Middle Georgia’s most-promising young people Tuesday night. Nearly 170 seniors from 22 high schools were nominated for the 40th annual Golden Eagle Awards sponsored by The Telegraph.
First-place and honorable mention winners were announced in 12 categories, from art and drama to science and technology. Each first-place recipient received $1,000 and a trophy, and a plaque and $300 went to each honorable mention winner.
The winning students were judged by representatives from area organizations and institutions. Zainab Siddiqui of Stratford Academy received a $15,000 scholarship from Mercer University.
“All of the nominees have distinguished themselves by their academic achievements and community involvement. All of your accomplishments are truly impressive,” Don Bailey, Telegraph publisher, said during his presentation.
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Miss America 2016, Betty Cantrell, a Warner Robins native and guest speaker for the event, encouraged students to follow their dreams by being true to who they are. She won a Golden Eagle award in music when she was a senior in high school.
“No matter how many mistakes you make in your life and no matter how many times it might take you to win, you can get there by being exactly who you are,” said Cantrell, a student at Mercer University. “It’s the only advice you need to get to where you want to go. Follow your dreams. Don’t give up. If I hadn’t tried to be Miss America and given it everything I had ... I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
The following students took home 2017 Golden Eagle Awards in each category: art winner, Meghan Chamlee, First Presbyterian Day School, and honorable mention, Elijah Rutland, Central High School; athletics winner, Breanna Ivey, Central High School, and honorable mention, Alyssa Epps, Tattnall Square Academy; citizenship winner, William McKay, Westside High School, and honorable mention, Anna McKelvey, Mary Persons High School; drama winner, Emily Bodony, Veterans High School, and honorable mention, Aniya Hammonds, Central High School; english/literature winner, Zainab Siddiqui, Stratford Academy, and honorable mention, Aiza Aslam, Houston County High School; foreign language winner, Evan Kelley, Mount de Sales Academy, and honorable mention, Afnan Khan, Central High School; industrial/vocational winner, NinSafe’u-el Franklin, Westfield School, and honorable mention, Natalie Roberson, Veterans High School; journalism winner, Reagan Ayers, Northside High School, and honorable mention, Carly Wanna, Stratford Academy; math winner, Kenzie Dingmore, Tattnall Square Academy, and honorable mention, Winston Way, Westfield School; music winner, Memorie Renfroe, First Presbyterian Day School, and honorable mention, Sarah Kate Sellers, Stratford Academy; science winner, Nivedha Soundappan, Houston County High School, and honorable mention, Adam Young, First Presbyterian Day School; and technology winner, Walter Kopacz, Westfield School, and honorable mention, Ashley Bishop, Veterans High School.
Five teachers received Education Together Teacher Awards and were presented with $1,000 for classroom materials. The 2017 winners were Michael Scott from Central High; Cyndy Roberts, First Presbyterian Day School; Dinah Redding, Howard High; Sylvia Haynie, Stratford Academy; and Candace Bridges, Tattnall Square Academy.