A Warner Robins High School senior won a $15,000 scholarship Tuesday night at the 39th annual Golden Eagle Awards.
Earlier in the night, Leo Finkley won a Golden Eagle in the industrial/vocational category for his work creating graphic designs. Toward the end of the night, he was randomly selected as the recipient of the $15,000 Education Together Scholarship, funded by Mercer University.
“I’m speechless,” said Finkley, who hopes to attend Georgia State University in the fall. “It’s kind of crazy and unbelievable that just like that I won $15,000 in scholarship (money).”
Finkley was nominated for the Golden Eagle Award for his work creating graphic designs for PowerPoint presentations his school used to recruit teachers.
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“My dream career in the future, I would love to own a company ... and go as big as Apple,” he said.
Among the other Golden Eagle winners were Warner Robins High School’s Eugenia Sosa, a student musician who helped encourage a classmate with autism to make strides in band class; Peach County High School’s Miriam Grant, a high school class president who developed a program that focuses on young people who’ve been bullied; and First Presbyterian Day School’s Richon Watson, a student actor who used technical skills to create livestream videos for sports games.
In all, nominees came from 22 Middle Georgia high schools.
“All of your accomplishments are truly impressive,” Don Bailey, publisher of The Telegraph, told an audience of accomplished students and their families at the Grand Opera House, where the awards ceremony has long been held.
Judges from midstate organizations and institutions selected a winner and honorable mention recipient for 12 categories: art, citizenship, drama, English/literature, foreign language, industrial/ vocational, journalism, math, music, science, social studies and technology. Twelve first-place winners received a Golden Eagle trophy and $1,000. Another 12 seniors received an honorable mention certificate and $300.
Guest speaker Adeline Kenerly, crowned Miss Georgia in September 2015, encouraged the students to set goals.
Kenerly, of Jesup, is a junior at the University of Georgia and is studying broadcast, digital journalism and political science. She recalled her first goal was to be a majorette at the university in Athens — something that’s now a reality.
“I’m just a normal girl from a very small town, but I’ve worked hard to make my dreams come true,” Kenerly said. “You all are going to do awesome things, and I can’t wait to watch.”
Those who didn’t win scholarship money on Tuesday will have another opportunity Wednesday when applications open for the Education Together scholarship, a new needs-based scholarship to be awarded in the spring.
The brainchild of Bailey, that scholarship is one of 13 initiatives of its kind sponsored by McClatchy newspapers. Money for the scholarships come from 18 community-minded companies in Middle Georgia. The money must be used at one of seven regional colleges.
Five Outstanding Teachers
Students weren’t the only scholars recognized for excellence Tuesday night. For the first time ever, the Education Together Teacher Awards were awarded to five outstanding Middle Georgia teachers. The award comes with $1,000 to spend on materials and supplies for their classrooms.
Central High School math teacher Daniel Brown was recognized for simplifying abstract math concepts and making them easier for students to understand. A recent STAR teacher, Brown baked a pound cake for his students to help them understand how to find the volume of a three-dimensional object formed by a rotated area of a two-dimensional space. Brown coordinates the school's International Baccalaureate program and teaches Advanced Placement calculus.
Howard High School’s Melinda Powell was recognized for her professionalism, dedication and the relevance of the instruction she provides. Powell, a two-time STAR teacher, is chairwoman of the school's English Department, oversees the school’s AP program and helps students prepare for the SAT and speech writing competitions. Powell also sponsors the school’s mock trial team and the National Honor Society
Northeast High School economics teacher Darryl Silas was recognized for increasing achievement and personalizing learning for students. Silas is also the school’s head baseball coach and assistant football coach. Silas’ students showed the highest growth percentile in the Bibb County school system on the state-based Milestones End of Course test in economics with 82 percent — besting all other Bibb schools by 25 to 30 percent.
Peach County High School economics teacher Amanda Cliett was recognized for her students’ high test scores on the Georgia Milestones test for economics. Cliett also is a cheerleading coach and a Pep Club sponsor.
Stratford Academy’s Mike Kelley, a history teacher, was recognized for his fervor for educating during the 35 years at the school. Kelley has been named STAR teacher 10 times, and his debate teams have won 25 state championships.
Bailey said the teacher scholarships and Education Together scholarships will be awarded annually.
First place winners:
Theresa Davis, Peach County High, Art; Sarah Powell, Bleckley County High School, Athletics; Miriam Grant, Peach County High School, Citizenship; Tyler Staten, Northside High School, Drama; Mary Swearingen, The Westfield School, English/Literature; Thomas Slocumb, Stratford Academy, Foreign Language; Leo Finkley, Warner Robins High School, Industrial/Vocational; Tyler Messer, Peach County High School, Math; Eugenia Sosa, Warner Robins High, Music; Michelle Tang, Stratford Academy, Science; Richon Watson, First Presbyterian Day School, Technology; Ashlynn Kilcrease, Howard High School, Journalism.
Brynna Wilson, First Presbyterian Day School, Art; Nekaybaw Watson, Central High School, Athletics; Keedrick Washington, Northeast High School, Citizenship; Chandler Shearin, Veterans High School, Drama; Amanda Rowan, Howard High School, English/Literature; Mary Claire Kinnas, The Westfield School, Foreign Language; Baylee Marsh, Howard High School, Industrial/Vocational; Margaret Pfohl, The Westfield School, Journalism; Emily Mixon, Tattnall Square Academy, Math; Sara Landreth, Northside High School, Music; Tamia Middleton, Central High School, Science; Dylan Ogle, Stratford Academy, Technology.