Academy awards shine light on individual successes

The Southerner

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By Taylor Allen

My feet are tapping on the green tarp below my chair, my fingers are twiddling, my heart is racing. My eyes are searching around the auditorium for those of my mother, only to assure she’s witnessing the upcoming events.

I can remember becoming anxious on the days of honor banquets at Inman Middle School. Even though I knew what grades I had made and what award I was to receive, I still nervously anticipated the sound of my name being called.

I would have to stand up and walk down the aisle in front of a crowd of parents, teachers and students just to feel the satisfaction of shaking the principal’s hand and confidently walking back to my chair holding a certificate. I miss those days when every student had the opportunity to be recognized for his or her academic achievements.

I was reminded of my middle school years when I recently walked into the Grady theater one morning, only to be stunned by the applause-filled air, student-packed seats and teachers on stage handing out certificates.

With the implementation of small learning communities last year, the freshmen and sophomores now enjoy the benefits of these ceremonies in high school.

Instead of proclaiming “Principal’s List” or “Honor Roll” such as the certificates I was granted at Inman, the single pages being awarded complimented students on their many character strengths, including “Most Creative” and “Outstanding Leadership.”

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools encouraged Grady to “find a way to recognize more students for the good things they do.” Now, the academy leaders host banquets twice a year to acknowledge students beyond their academic achievement and perfect attendance.

The four separate academies are individualizing the awards they give in order to appropriately recognize the students. The Business and Entrepreneurship Academy focuses on giving awards such as “Striving for Excellence” as well as ones that acknowledge students for their attendance in tutorial, leadership skills and creativity. Last year, Russell Plasczyk, the leader of the Public Policy and Justice Academy, recognized every student in his academy with an award. These ceremonies also allow students to recognize their classmates by awarding them eccentric superlatives, such as “Life of the Party.”

“These superlatives give 40 different recognitions that wouldn’t normally fall into the cliché rewards,” Willie Vincent, the Business and Entrepreneurship Academy leader said. “Through this interesting way of recognizing more students, it’s like we’re giving them mini-diplomas after each semester and moving them toward graduation.”

Even though this idea of giving superlatives to high school students twice a year may seem too juvenile, I find it to be a worthwhile effort that demonstrates the genuine enthusiasm of the academy leaders. Many students need positive reinforcement and encouragement throughout their high school careers, and these banquets and academy leaders provide that.

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