Hot Springs Village Altrusans honor students with luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published April 12, 2015 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

Arkansas first lady Susan Hutchinson welcomes students, parents, teachers and counselors to the 4.0 GPA Student Recognition Luncheon at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas first lady Susan Hutchinson shared a thing or two in common with those who had been invited to lunch at her home recently.

As a former schoolteacher, Hutchinson could identify with the teachers and counselors gathered in the Grand Hall of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, where she and her husband, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, live.

As valedictorian of her senior high school class, she could also identify with the students those teachers accompanied to the 4.0 GPA Student Recognition Luncheon sponsored March 18 by Altrusa International of Hot Springs Village.

Valerie Derryberry, chairwoman of the event, said that for the past 10 years, the Hot Springs Village Altrusa Club has sponsored a luncheon for students from three Garland County schools who achieved a 4.0 grade-point average in high school in the fall semester preceding the luncheon. This year, 73 students from Fountain Lake, Jessieville and Mountain Pine high schools were honored. Ten of those students have maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school, and each received a $500 scholarship; scholarship donors include Belk department store, PEO Chapter DE, Relyance Bank and Rose Bruns.

“I appreciate your being here,” Susan Hutchinson told the students, parents, teachers and counselors.

“When you limit your education, you limit your possibilities,” she said. “Keep on learning.”

Ed Buckner, chief meteorologist at KTHV-TV, the CBS television affiliate in Little Rock, was guest speaker at the luncheon.

“What’s a 4.0?” he said, smiling. “That’s something I’ve never seen.”

Buckner said he wanted to work in broadcast journalism — behind the scenes and not on TV, at first — but he had to have three hours of college algebra to obtain a degree.

“My weakness is math,” he said. “Math is my downfall. Music was my strength. I wrote songs and played guitar.

“I have Asperger [syndrome], which is a form of autism, and Tourette syndrome,” he said, “but I have learned to deal with that.”

He said he wasn’t diagnosed with Tourette syndrome until he was an adult.

“As a child, I was just told I had a nervous twitch,” he said.

Buckner said he had to take college algebra five times before he got a C in the class.

“That’s called perseverance. I had to work to get what I wanted. Just because you can’t get it the first time doesn’t mean you give up,” Buckner said. “Like anybody, we all have something we have to overcome. Don’t let anything stop you.

“You guys work hard. I am so proud of you. You’ve worked hard and you’ve kept working hard. That’s called attitude.

“It’s very cool they do this [recognition luncheon] for you.”

Seniors recognized for maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout high school are Ryan Graves, Haydn Jeffers, Kirandeep Kaur and Alexis Huff, all of Mountain Pine High School; Alyssa Carpenter, Hannah Fountain, Faith Garrett, Melissa Mack and Emily Williford, all of Jessieville High School; and Carlee Darnell and Sarah Rountree, both of Fountain Lake High School.

Graves, the 18-year-old son of Ronnie and Schelly Graves, plans to major in education and coaching at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.

“I love getting to come to this luncheon every year,” he said. “I will miss it next year.”

Jeffers, the 17-year-old daughter of Greg and Carol Jeffers, plans to major in English at OBU.

“I want to be a college professor,” she said.

“This year’s luncheon was great,” she said. “It’s the best one I’ve been to.”

Kaur, the 18-year-old daughter of Jack Sandhu and Pam Kaur, plans to attend Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and major in biology.

“I want to be a dentist,” she said.

Huff, the 18-year-old daughter of Ray and Brenda Huff, plans to attend Arkansas Tech University and major in nursing.

“I’ve attended the luncheon since ninth grade,” she said. “I love it. Every year, it’s so pretty. It’s great.”

Carpenter, the 17-year-old daughter of Dennis and Alice Bates, has attended the luncheon for the past four years.

“I love it,” she said.

Carpenter plans to attend the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and major in nursing.

“I want to become a nurse practitioner,” she said.

Garrett, the 18-year-old daughter of Steve and Nancie Garrett, plans to major in nursing at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

“I really enjoyed the

luncheon,” she said. “I really enjoyed Mrs. Hutchinson and Ed Buckner being the guest speakers.

“I am very thankful that Altrusa provides our students with this luncheon,” she said. “It is a great incentive to make good grades.”

Mack, the 18-year-old daughter of Trisha Mack, plans to major in theater and design at UCA.

“It’s an honor to come to the luncheon,” she said. “It’s always exciting to come to it.”

Williford, the 18-year-old daughter of Mark and Lisa Williford, plans to major in nursing at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.

She has also attended the luncheon for the past four years.

“It’s really nice,” she said of the luncheon.

Darnell, the 18-year-old daughter of Cliff and Linda Darnell, plans to attend Christian Brothers University in Memphis and major in religion and philosophy. She wants to become a youth minister.

She said she thinks the luncheon “is a real good way to encourage students to try their hardest.”

“We don’t get an opportunity to dress up and see things like this very often.”

Rountree, the 17-year-old daughter of Doug and Jayne Ann Rountree, said she has never made a B in high


“This is my fourth year to come to the luncheon,” she said. “I look forward to it every year.”

Rountree plans to attend Arkansas State University-Jonesboro and major in elementary education.

“I want to be a teacher like my parents,” she said.

Other students from Fountain Lake High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the fall 2014 semester include ninth-graders Lyndsey Blees, Jessa Goodeaux, Scout Martin, Tylor Rea-Garibay, Brock Rigsby, Lauren Terry, Cody Tigue, Brandon Turnbull and Ethan Westerman; 10th-graders Jesus Avila, Hayden Beckwith, Kalynn Bennett, Brishen Christmas, Chloe Ledbetter, Sunny Nickels, Jill Waldrop and Amie Westerman; 11th-graders Sarah Bearden, Eric Beckham, Madison Childress, Alexa Donley, Lexie Hood, Emily Ann Johnson, Emily D. Johnson, Barry Kohr, Vanessa Nobles, Tyler Patton, Ethan Simpson, Autumn Sims, Cate Skinner, Casandra Spears, Veronica Tillery and Calie Vandusen; and 12th-graders Darian Burks, Victoria Christensen, Aroura Engle, Sarah Gilleran, Arynn Johnson, Ivan Johnson, Bridgett Ray and Abigail Rose.

Other students from Jessieville High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the fall 2014 semester include ninth-graders Jonathan Bates, Chloe Davis, Noah Eskew and Daniel Johnson; 10th-graders Madison Back, Steven Benson and Victoria Radke; 11th-graders Ashley Bonilla, Camille Eisenhauer, Madison Hair, Caddo Lowery and Jonathan Semmler; and 12th-graders Sarah Cansler, Hanna Fountain and Tristen Parker.

Other students from Mountain Pine High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the fall 2014 semester include ninth-graders Kelly Currington, Cora Hurst and Ali Meeks; 10th-graders Ashton Hargrove and Callie Wright; 11th-grader Cheyenne Shumaker; and 12th-grader Rebecca Stephenson.

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