Club honors students with 4.0 GPA

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published March 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 29, 2013 at 10:32 a.m.
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Hannah Burney

Eyvonne Whipple, right, Altrusa president, congratulates Jamal LaFond, left, a senior at Mountain Pine High School, as Valerie Derryberry calls the next award recipient.

Perfection is something rare that is worthy of some kind of celebration. The women of the Hot Springs Village chapter of Altrusa International honored more than 60 students from Fountain Lake High School, Jessieville High School and Mountain Pine High School in Garland County on Wednesday at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock

“This is the eighth year we have given this special recognition to the best students from these schools,” said Valerie Derryberry, a chapter officer who helped coordinate the luncheon. “For some of these

students, getting to come here to the mansion is getting to be old hat.”

Eyvonne Whipple, president of the Hot Springs Village Altrusa chapter, said the organization wanted to do something out of the ordinary for the students from the three school districts from small Garland County communities outside Hot Springs.

“When the club held their first 4.0 event, as it has come to be called, there were 40 students,” she said. “This year there are 63 students — an increase of more than 50 percent.”

Whipple said the club hopes the improvement reflects student awareness of the luncheon and encourages them to make an extra effort to earn the 4.0 grade-point average.

First lady Ginger Beebe personally greeted each student as they entered the mansion in the historic Quapaw District in the state capital.

“This is my first time to be here,” said Carly O’Brien, a senior at Fountain Lake High School. “This year I had harder classes, but I studied more and focused more on school.”

She said her favorite classes have been college algebra and art. O’Brien plans to attend Pulaski Technical College at the Benton campus before studying psychology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Each student who earned a 4.0 GPA in the fall 2012 semester was invited to the luncheon to be the guests of the Altrusa Club.

Returning for his third luncheon was Mountain Pine High School senior Jamal

LaFond. He is being sought by several colleges not only for his good grades but because of his basketball abilities.

“My mom stays hard on me about the academics, but I love coming to school every day,” he said. “Along with basketball, I like working with numbers and science.”

Only a few months from graduation, he said he is undecided about where he will go to school.

“The coaches are beginning to talk to me, but I want to go to either UALR or to U of A in Fayetteville and study business and computers,” he said.

At the end of the luncheon, a separate awards ceremony was held for three Jessieville High School students who have carried a perfect 4.0 academic record throughout high school.

Jill Tyler was one of the three students who won $500 scholarships for their achievements.

“I have been setting goals for myself since a very young age,” Tyler said. “I think this luncheon has been an incentive for me to keep trying to succeed.”

While she has been offered a fellowship to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, she said she is undecided on where she will go to college.

“I’m still waiting to hear from some of the schools,” Tyler said. “I am interested in going to the University of Oklahoma or Vanderbilt University.”

She said she wants to study biology and medicine with a goal of going on medical missions.

The other two $500 scholarships for achieving a 4.0 GPA were given to Will Combs and Peyton Lamb.

State Sen. Bill Smith, D-Hot Springs, addressed the luncheon gathering of students, parents, teachers and school principals. He told the students to get the best education they could and then return to create their lives and careers in their home communities.

Founded in 1917, Altrusa chapters volunteer time and resources to improve some of the major concerns in their communities.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or

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