Altrusa club honors students with luncheon at mansion

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published April 30, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf

Susan Hutchinson, far right, poses with the six seniors who received scholarships at the 4.0 GPA Student Recognition Luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion sponsored by Altrusa International of Hot Springs Village. Students include, from left, Steven Benson, Jessieville High School; Hayden Beckwith, Fountain Lake High School; Amie Westerman, Fountain Lake High School; Victoria Radke, Jessieville High School; Callie Wright, back, Mountain Pine High School; and Ashton Hargrove, Mountain Pine High School.

— Just ask the 101 Garland County high school students who attended the 11th annual 4.0 GPA Student Recognition Luncheon, sponsored by Altrusa International of Hot Springs Village. The students’ most recent reward for making good grades was a trip to Little Rock on April 5 to have lunch with Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his wife, Susan, at the Governor’s Mansion. Also joining them was Craig O’Neill, KTHV-Channel 11 news anchor, who was the guest speaker.

Valerie Derryberry, chairwoman of the event, said the Hot Springs Village Altrusa Club sponsors this luncheon for students from three Garland County schools who have achieved 4.0 grade-point averages in high school in the fall semester preceding the luncheon. This year, 101 students were honored from the Fountain Lake, Jessieville and Mountain Pine school districts. Six of those students have maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school, and each received a $500 scholarship.

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

The governor told the students education is important to Arkansas.

“Education is what will bring us an increase in job opportunities for young people,” Hutchinson said. “You are the top students, … the leaders of the future. Never stop learning. … Never stop studying.

“My parents had a high school education but did not go to college, but they knew the importance of education.”

O’Neill entertained the audience with a variety of funny stories about his career as a broadcaster, first in sports, then in news.

He also related the story of his grandmother, who lived in Warren in 1955.

“She had a front porch with a beautiful swing. People would gather on her front porch. We visited. … We talked,” O’Neill said.

“Then in 1958, she got a window air conditioner for her living room, and the family moved inside, off the front porch. They came inside and visited,” he said.

“Four years later, she had central heat and air throughout the house. Then six years later, she got a TV, and in 1981, she had cable TV. Nobody talked anymore,” he said.

“With every advance in technology, we have become divided from each other and ourselves. You have to look no further than the palm of your hand to see that,” O’Neill said.

“We’ve got to stay on the front porch,” he said. “One of the best ways to do that is to volunteer. Give of yourself; expect nothing in return.

“You are to be commended for your accomplishments. Congratulations.”

Susan Hutchinson, who joined Derryberry and Bielanski in presenting the awards, made a few remarks before she presented the students with their certificates.

Hutchinson encouraged the students to pursue their dreams.

“See where it takes you,” she said. “I grew up in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. I had wonderful parents who were undereducated, but they knew the importance of education. They wanted all seven of us children to go to college.

“They instilled us with faith, … a sense of responsibility. Five of us did go on to college.”

Susan Hutchinson told the students, “This is not the end but just the beginning. You have to decide what you will do.

“You don’t know what might happen,” she said. “Stick with your roots, … good character. If you have been raised in faith, hold on to your relationship with the Lord.

“Don’t be afraid of change. … With a 4.0, you will be open to a lot of possibilities. Remember, along with your education, music, sports, hobbies … all become a part of you. Find a use for all of it.

“Never stop learning.”

Students recognized for maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout high school are Hayden Beckwith and Amie Westerman, both of Fountain Lake High School; Steven Benson and Victoria Radke, both of Jessieville High School; and Ashton Hargrove and Callie Wright, both of Mountain Pine High School. Each of these students has attended the luncheon for the past four years, and each received a $500 scholarship this year.

• Beckwith, the 18-year-old son of Darin and Tanya Beckwith, plans to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and major in mechanical engineering.

“I always look forward to coming to this luncheon,” he said.

• Westerman, the 18-year-old daughter of Bruce and Sharon Westerman, plans to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and study engineering.

“I’m not sure what kind of engineering yet,” she said.

“I love coming to this luncheon every year,” she said. “I always look forward to it.”

• Benson, the 18-year-old son of Gary and Chris Benson, plans to attend the University of Arizona and major in business administration.

“It’s been tough to keep a 4.0 all four years, but it’s very rewarding,” he said.

“This is the fourth luncheon I have been to,” Benson said. “It’s very generous of them to do this for us every year and to give scholarships to those who keep a 4.0 all through high school.”

• Radke, the 18-year-old daughter of Jason and Erin Radke, plans to attend New York University and major in journalism.

“I want to go into print journalism,” she said. “I am editor of the school yearbook and an intern at the Hot Springs Village Voice.”

Radke said attending the 4.0 luncheon has become one of her favorite events to attend.

“Altrusa does such a good job at ensuring that academic achievement is celebrated in the fashion that athletics is, and it’s nice to see that organizations outside of school are aware of the stress endured and the effort needed to maintain a 4.0,” she said. “Plus, the food is always amazing, and the creme brulee was unusually good this year, considering the fact that I’m normally not a creme brulee fan.

“It’s always such an honor to be able to attend, and this year, I actually had the opportunity to speak to the governor one on one,” Radke said.

• Hargrove, the 17-year-old daughter of Tim and Angie Hargrove, plans to attend the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and major in social work or occupational therapy.

“I love it,” she said, when asked about the 4.0 Luncheon.

• Wright, the 18-year-old daughter of Chris and Jennifer Wright, plans to attend Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and major in biology.

“I want to be a pharmacist,” she said.

“This luncheon is awesome,” she said. “I enjoy it so much."

Other students from Fountain Lake High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the 2016 fall semester include ninth-graders Ryan Avila, Samuel Binns, Isabel Butler, Jonathan Fertel, Erin Graves, Amy James, Cole Alexander Jones, Cooper Keese, Jackson Keese, Sydney Mungle, Marcus Needles, Andrew Overton, Zachary Paslay, Victoria Pike, Erika Rico, Lance Tubberville, Rodrigo Vasquez, Emily Walker, Annie Westerman and Breann Williams.

Also, 10th-graders with a 4.0 GPA are William Acord, Kaitlyn Bledsoe, Emiley Blair Burke, Adelaine Christmas, Lanee Dixon, Margaret Florini, Caitlin Garner, Hayden Hoya, Andrew Johnson, Byron Louk, Taylor Mason, Victoria Mawhinney, Jordan Mungle, Lainey Rice, William Rigsby, Hilda-Marie Roberts, Colson Simpson, Nayeli Vasquez and Sarah Walker.

And 11th-graders with a 4.0 GPA are Stinson Burton, Mason Carden, Arthur Fertel, Rachel Golden, Jessa Goodeaux, Gabriel Hotho, Espartaco Obando-Granda, Tylor Rea-Garibay, Lauren Terry, Stephen Turner and Emily Walker.

And finally, 12th-graders with a 4.0 GPA are Mary Autry, Kalynn Bennett, Brishen Christmas, Payton Hamric, Chloe Ledbetter, Tiffany Lloyd, Sunny Nickels, Arial Terry and Jill Waldrop.

Other students from Jessieville High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the 2016 fall semester include ninth-graders Joseph Benson, Emma Hill, Lilie Richards, Jacob Semmler and Jacob Theriot; 10th-graders Madeline Bonilla, Sidney McCann, Nathan Pumphrey and Grace Robertson; 11th-graders Johnathan Bates, Jax Belin, Chloe Davis, Noah Eskew, Daniel Johnson and Joshua Ray; and 12th-graders Abbey George, Abigail Graves, Caleb Johnson, Kellie Lampo, Dana Pumphrey, Melissa Romero, Riley Jo Taylor and Rylynn Wheeler.

Other students from Mountain Pine High School who achieved a 4.0 GPA in the 2016 fall semester include ninth-graders Kaelyn Canar, Matthew Hurst, Destini Nichols and Micah Travis; 10th-graders Sean Jackson and Josh Walpole; 11th-graders Kelly Currington, Bristol Huff, Cora Hurst, Joshua Lynch, Ali Meeks and Taylor Terry; and 12th-grader Dustin Green.

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