Club honors students at top of their classes

By Wayne Bryan Published April 7, 2014 at 11:59 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Fountain Lake seniors Eli Westerman, from left, and Matt Pultz pose for a photo along with Gavin Stiles, Gov. Mike Beebe, Brooke Hobbs, Erin Halley and Lindsey Savall. The women are all seniors at Jessieville High School. These students maintained a 4.0 GPA through high school and were among the scholars recognized by Altrusa International of Hot Springs Village with a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion. Students from Jessieville, Mountain Pine and Fountain Lake who had a 4.0 GPA in the fall semester were honored at Wednesday’s event.

LITTLE ROCK — To make all A’s at school is a big deal. To do it once is a good indication of student success; to carry the achievement through the school years is worthy of praise. To go all through high school with a 4.0 grade-point average is something rare and should be celebrated.

The women of the Hot Spring Village chapter of Altrusa International held that celebration for the ninth straight year Wednesday with lunch at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock for 65 students from Fountain Lake High School, Jessieville High School and Mountain Pine High School. Six of those students have achieved and maintained a 4.0 GPA through their high school careers.

Valerie Derryberry, a member of Altrusa, is one of the founders of the celebration. The Village chapter wanted to do something out of the ordinary for the students from the school districts in three small Garland County communities.

“There were a lot of people doing things for the jocks in local schools,” Derryberry told the Tri-Lakes Edition during an earlier luncheon at the mansion. “We wanted to so something for the smart kids.”

The students from the three schools, who were brought to Little Rock for a presentation of certificates, all achieved a 4.0 grade-point average for the fall 2013 semester. Derryberry said the number of students who have achieved the highest possible GPA under the school districts’ grading systems has been increasing since the recognition program began.

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

The students were joined by their parents and school counselors.

“The students are always excited about the event,” Derryberry said. “This gives them the experience of formal dining in a showplace setting.”

Arkansas’ first lady, Ginger Beebe, greeted each student as he or she entered the mansion in the historic Quapaw District of Little Rock.

Gov. Mike Beebe mingled with the students and spoke privately with the six students who had held their high grades throughout high school.

“Congratulations, you earned it, and we’re all proud of you,” the governor told the students. “But I have to tell you, stay here, or if you go out of state to school, remember to come back. We need you here at home.”

Only one of the six students plans to attend college outside Arkansas. Eli Westerman, who has come to the event for four years from Fountain Lake High School, said he will attend Yale University as a biomedical engineering student.

The other students said they plan to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Harding University in Searcy or John Brown University in Siloam Springs.

Erin Haley, who carries a 4.1 GPA for the Jessieville class of 2014, said the secret of her success was to “always be present” in the classroom.

“You need to be motivated and love to learn,” she said. “Then listen to the teacher.”

Haley said she will attend John Brown University.

Matthew Plutz, another Fountain Lake senior, said he maintained his grades by “working and studying harder.” He will attend Harding University.

All the students said maintaining high grades takes extra dedication.

“You don’t always get eight hours of sleep, either,” Westerman said.

The six students who had maintained all A’s through high school received $500 scholarships.

Gov. Beebe greeted the audience when the guest speaker, meteorologist Ed Buckner of Little Rock, was unable to attend.

The 4.0 luncheon is one of two major projects conducted by the Altrusa International chapter in Hot Springs Village. The other project adopted by the group is the creation of Comfort Kits.

When a rape victim is taken to a hospital in Saline or Garland County, police procedure is to take all of the victim’s clothing as evidence. Club members believe that only leaves the victims traumatized a second time, as they must leave the hospital in whatever clothing is available.

Each Comfort Kit includes a set of sweat pants and shirt, a throw, underwear, rubber-bottomed socks and toiletry items. Club members also make sure to include a handwritten note to the victim, expressing concern and love.

The international organization was formed in 1917, and the Village chapter was created in 2004.

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

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

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