Top students honored at Governor’s Mansion

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published March 27, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.
0 Comments A A Font Size
Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

First lady Susan Hutchinson, sixth from left, congratulates local high school seniors on receiving $500 scholarships from Altrusa International of Hot Springs Village. The seniors are, from left, Madison Hair, Caddo Lowery and Jonathan Semmier, all of Jessieville High School; and Sarah Bearden, Alexa Donley, Lexi Hood, Barry Kohr and Vanessa Nobles, all of Fountain Lake High School.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his wife, Susan, shared their thoughts on education with more than 80 students, their families and teachers March 8 during a luncheon at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.

The students — all from Fountain Lake, Jessieville and Mountain Pine high schools — were there to be honored at the annual 4.0 GPA Student Recognition Luncheon sponsored by Altrusa International of Hot Springs Village.

Susan Hutchinson greeted the guests as they entered the mansion. She then welcomed them from the podium, thanking them for their “great work and due diligence and not being afraid to be called a nerd.

“Continue to use your God-given ability and use it wisely,” said Hutchison, who told the audience she was valedictorian of her high school senior class in Georgia.

“Follow your dream wherever it takes you,” she said. “You can never learn too much. Keep learning and doing the right thing. It will reward you.”

The governor entered the mansion shortly after the luncheon began. He talked about one of his first accomplishments as governor — securing legislation that mandated computer science be taught in all Arkansas school districts.

“Every student can take advantage of it if they choose to do so,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “They can take face-to-face classes or online through Virtual Arkansas. It’s free for every student.”

He said he continues to work to recruit businesses to the state.

Hutchinson told the audience that both he and his wife came from small towns and schools, from “blue collar” families.

“Her dad had no high school education. … He was a tire salesman,” Hutchinson said. “My dad was a farmer and worked in a poultry plant; my mom was brighter than anyone, but she did not graduate from high school.

“I am from Gravette. I attended Gravette schools. From that small town came a federal district judge, a U.S. senator, a U.S. congressman and a governor.”

Hutchinson said that over the years, he found himself going up against Ivy League school graduates and holding his own and winning battles.

“It’s fun to show the world what we’re made of. Susan and I raised four kids living in a mobile home,” he said with a smile. “Life presents you with opportunities. … Don’t diminish your education. Each of you is a 4.0 student.”

The governor quoted his favorite author, Henry van Dyke: “Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

“I congratulate you on your success,” Hutchinson said. “God bless you.”

Adding a special spark to this year’s luncheon was a magic act by Maxwell Blade of Hot Springs.

“I came to Hot Springs to get off the road and to raise my kids,” said Blade, who has been performing in Hot Springs for 20 years.

“Stick to your dreams. They will take you places,” Blade told the students.

Valerie Derryberry, chairwoman of the 4.0 GPA Student Recognition Luncheon, said the Hot Springs Village Altrusa Club sponsors this luncheon for students from the three Garland County schools who achieved a 4.0 grade-point average in high school in the fall semester preceding the luncheon. This year, 82 students were honored. Eight of those students have maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school, and each received a $500 scholarship.

Scholarship donors include Eyecare Specialties; City Plumbing; Heating and Electric Inc.; PEO Chapter DE; Relyance Bank; Melanie Pederson, in honor of her father, Melvin Arendt; and Rose Bruns, in memory of her parents, Lawrence and Mildred Penton.

Diane Bielanski, president of the local Altrusa club, said the club has given $20,000 in scholarships since the program began 10 years ago. She said primary sources of funding include a fundraiser each fall, a grant from Altrusa International and private donations.

Students recognized for maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout high school are Sarah Bearden, Alexa Donley, Lexie Hood, Barry Kohr and Vanessa Nobles, all of Fountain Lake High School; and Madison Hair, Caddo Lowery and Jonathan Semmier, all of Jessieville High School. Each of these students has attended the luncheon for the past four years.

• Bearden is the daughter of Rick and Christy Peterson. Bearden plans to attend Arkansas Tech University’s honors program in Russellville and major in accounting. She hopes to become a certified public accountant.

• Donley, the daughter of Albert and Angela Donley, plans to major in psychology at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

• Hood, the daughter of Christy Hood, plans to attend Arkansas Tech and become an orthodontist.

• Kohr, the son of Barry Kohr Sr., plans to study political science and pre-law as he majors in music at UCA.

• Nobles is the daughter of April James. Nobles plans to attend National Park College in Hot Springs and become a nurse practitioner.

• Hair, the daughter of Stacy and Cassie Hair, plans to study nursing at Arkansas Tech.

• Lowery, the daughter of Bryan and Marci Lowery, plans to major in biology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, then attend medical or dental school.

• Semmier, the son of Michael and Susan Semmier, plans to attend the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and major in biology. He said he hopes to become an optometrist.

Other students from Fountain Lake High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the 2015 fall semester include ninth-graders William Acord, Kaitlyn Bledsoe, Adelaine Christmas, Lanee Dixon, Margaret Florini, Emily Hughes, Andrew Johnson, Byron Louk, Jordan Mungle, William Rigsby and Sarah Walker; 10th-graders Montana Carden, Arthur Fertel, Rachel Golden, Jessa Goodeaux, Amelia Martin, Tylor Rea-Garibay, Haley Riggs, Lauren Terry, Cody Tigue, Stephen Turner and Ethan Westerman; 11th-graders Mary Autry, Hayden Beckwith, Brishen Christmas, Alissa Lambert, Tiffany Lloyd, Taylor Meeks, Georgia Miller, Ashley Phingst, Raejan Russell, Jill Waldrop, Amie Westerman, KatiBeth Westerman and Allison Wilcox; and 12th-graders Kyle Crowder, Emily Ann Johnson, Anna-Claire Pope, Faith Reynolds, Cate Skinner, Brooke Thomas, Veronica Tillery, Courtney Wachsman and Bailey Womack.

Other students from Jessieville High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the 2015 fall semester include ninth-graders Sawyer Lamb, Sidney McCann and Grace Robertson; 10th-graders Jonathan Bates, Chloe Davis, Noah Eskew, Ellie Green and Joshua Ray; 11th-graders Madison Back, Steven Benson, Abbey George, Caleb Johnson, Kellie Lampo, Dana Pumphrey, Victoria Radke, Melissa Romero, Riley Jo Taylor and Rylynn Wheeler; and 12th-graders Ashley Bonilla, Stephanie Brewer, Leslie Friederich and Madison Willis.

Students from Mountain Pine High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the 2015 fall semester include 10th-graders Kelly Currington and Cora Hurst; 11th-graders Ashton Hargrove and Callie Williams; and 12th-graders Hailee Crosby, Caleigh Currington, Shyla Hull and Jacob Travis.