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story.lead_photo.caption Gina Pendergraft, a Fayetteville Public Education Foundation Hall of Honor inductee, speaks to seniors Wednesday at Fayetteville High School. - Photo by David Gottschalk

FAYETTEVILLE -- Teenagers don't need to have a detailed life plan before graduating high school to make an impact on the community, 2016 inductees into the Hall of Honor said Wednesday.

Photo by David Gottschalk
Candy Clark. a Fayetteville Public Education Foundation Hall of Honor inductee, speaks at Fayetteville High School. Other inductees included includes Neal and Gina Pendergraft, Sarah Fennel Buchanan, and Susie Stewart.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Neal Pendergraft, a Fayetteville Public Education Foundation Hall of Honor inductee, speaks to seniors Wednesday at Fayetteville High School. Other inductees included Gina Pendergraft, Candy Clark, Sarah Fennel Buchanan and Susie Stewart.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Sarah Fennel Buchanan, a Fayetteville Public Education Foundation’s 20th annual Hall of Honor inductee, speaks to seniors Wednesday at Fayetteville High School.

Sarah Fennel Buchanan remembers having no clue what she wanted to do until she went on a trip at age 25 that led to her passion for helping children in Kenya and founding the nonprofit Restore Humanity.

Hall of Honor inductees

• Gina and Neal Pendergraft, friends of Fayetteville School District, chosen for their philanthropy and support of Fayetteville children, public and higher education, and the region

• Susie Brooks Stewart, Fayetteville High School educator from 1971 to 2010 and Fayetteville High School Class of 1966. Chosen for roles in teaching, research and service and her influence in the lives of her students.

• Candy Clark, member of the Fayetteville High School Class of 1975. Chosen for her roles as a business owner, public servant and philanthropist dedicated to education, the arts, equality and community engagement.

• Sarah Fennel Buchanan, receiving the Student Choice Award. A member of the Class of 1998 chosen for her work as an advocate for humanitarian efforts in western Kenya communities and her cross-cultural collaboration efforts in Fayetteville and overseas.

Source: Fayetteville Public Education Foundation

Neal Pendergraft started out pursuing architecture, but knew he needed a different career path after failing several classes one semester in college. He worked many "nasty" jobs, but found a career as an accountant and lawyer.

Fayetteville High School juniors and seniors spent Wednesday afternoon with five community members being inducted into the school's Hall of Honor. This is the 20th year for the recognition program sponsored by the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation and the Fayetteville High School Student Council.

"Whatever you try to do, try to be the best one," Pendergraft said. "Whatever you choose to do, it's going to take a lot of hard work."

The inductees this year are Buchanan, Pendergraft and his wife Gina Pendergraft, Susie Brooks Stewart and Candy Clark, all of Fayetteville.

Buchanan was selected for the first Student Choice Award, a new award for the Hall of Honor. Students don't need to start a nonprofit group to make a difference, she said. They can start by being nice to those sitting next to them.

"The kinder you are, the better you feel," Buchanan said.

It's an annual tradition for the new Hall of Honor inductees to speak to high school students, Fayetteville High School Principal Chad Scott said. The Student Choice Award means students have more involvement in choosing individuals for recognition.

"It allows our students to see a glimpse into people who are making an impact," Scott said.

The presentation for the nearly 1,300 students precedes tonight's Hall of Honor dinner and ceremony, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The cost is $100 per person.

Getting ready to graduate feels a little scary, said Katrina Dobbs, who's in her senior year as a new student at Fayetteville High School.

"You don't know what you want to be," Dobbs said. "You're not sure how life is going to go for you."

The inductees are people who chose to give back, Dobbs said.

"Maybe I can see myself helping later on," she said.

Susie Brooks Stewart knew as early as 5 years old she wanted to be a teacher. In her roughly 40-year career teaching at Fayetteville High School, she said she found most students are unsure about life after high school.

"It's rewarding as a teacher when you can see how young men and women can change dramatically," Stewart said.

Stewart shared stories of two former students who got in trouble in high school, but who turned into upstanding adults. One student became a mentor to teenage boys, while the other student became a Marine, went to law school and later mentored troubled young men.

"It's not where you start -- it's how you finish," Stewart said. "Don't ever think even the smallest decision you make doesn't matter. You don't know what it can open up for you."

Candy Clark graduated from high school not wanting to grow up and not knowing what she was going to do, she said. She went to college and earned a bachelor's degree in history and then a master's degree and doctorate in communication.

Clark spent more than 15 years as a debate coach and communications instructor for several universities, but returned home to help her mother. In Fayetteville, Clark took opportunities she didn't plan, including become the first executive director of the Humane Society of the Ozarks, a role she had for six years. She left in 1998 to start a commercial and industrial cleaning service with wife Teddy.

In 18 years, their company C&C Services has grown to 50 employees with accounts for more than 100 job sites, Clark said.

"These are kids who are being pressure to decide now what you want to be," Clark said. "You just follow your opportunities."

Fayetteville High School offers a variety of classes for students to learn foreign languages, orchestra, costume design and about gardening, a class that might have helped Gina Pendergraft, now a master gardener, discover her interest in working with plants at a younger age, she said.

"Take a variety of classes," she said. "Find something you're interested in."

Gina and Neal Pendergraft have two daughters who graduated from Fayetteville High School. Gina Pendergraft spent more than seven years on the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation board.

"Keep your attention on your path, work hard and you will all make us proud," she said.

The Neal R. Pendergraft Endowment was created this year with a $250,000 gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation. The donation was in honor of Neal Pendergraft's service on the Reynolds Foundation board.

The Pendergrafts have given two other endowments to the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation.

NW News on 09/29/2016

Print Headline: Hall of Honor inductees share personal stories with Fayetteville High School students

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