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DeKalb graduates honored for overcoming adversity, receive scholarships
by Staff Reports
June 12, 2014 12:42 PM | 2694 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A group of local teenagers, who have suffered difficult circumstances in their young lives, recently gathered for the Simon Scholars Annual Awards Banquet — celebrating the beginning of a journey toward realizing their American Dream of higher education.

The program, which provides scholarship assistance to capable and qualified students faced with challenging life situations, honored 14 graduating seniors from the DeKalb County School District in front of their families, peers and education and business leaders. The ceremony and banquet took place at the Emory Hotel and Conference Center May 28.

“We are proud to honor the high school class of 2014 Simon Scholars, who under the care and guidance of our organization, will continue to take steps in overcoming adversity, pursuing a college education and ultimately achieving the greatness they were destined for,” said Catherine Turk, Atlanta chapter program coordinator. “Simon Scholars from Chamblee Charter School and Southwest DeKalb High School came from a variety of backgrounds and challenges — which included being homeless for a period of time, coming from financially struggling households, leaving impoverished third-world countries, taking care of ailing parents and suffering from debilitating illnesses. Despite their challenges, these students have gone above and beyond their life situations to exhibit a drive for success and they truly embody what a Simon Scholar should be.”

Class of 2014 Simon Scholars from Chamblee Charter High are Navila Akther, Mohd Hasan, Lizaremi Luna-Sousa, Noor-E-Alam Marshall, Oluwatunmise Olowojoba, Gabrielle Pointer and Jennifer Tran. Southwest DeKalb High School Simon Scholars are Nekhena Campbell, Lenora Ealy, Stephen Fitch, Aria Gabriel, Chelsea Jackson, Zoe Macfoy, Terence Navalta, Demba Kah and Ravon Rolle.

The banquet’s theme, “Coming of Age as a Simon Scholar: Embracing the Past, Enjoying the Present, Envisioning the Future,” was emphasized in each speech as students remembered the challenges that brought them to the program, shared their academic and personal growth as a result of being in the program and focused on the college and career opportunities that were ahead of them.

The ceremony presented Olowojoba with the Simon scholar of the year award for her continual support of her peers and active involvement in various program events and achievements, including becoming a published poet last summer. Kah delivered a speech about being homeless, having to leave his mother in another country and taking public transportation to school each morning at 4:30 a.m. and returning home late in the night — all while taking 11 Advanced Placement classes.

In addition, Luna-Sousa, valedictorian of Chamblee, was honored for her commitment to taking 12 Advanced Placement classes and graduating with a 4.1 GPA. Luna-Sousa and her fellow scholars will attend top-ranked universities, ranging from Cornell University to the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory and Vanderbilt universities.

The scholars were recognized for earning GPAs of 3.8 and above while taking an average of five to 12 Advanced Placement classes, participating in multiple extracurricular activities and holding top leadership positions in their schools and communities.

Scholarship recipients are selected during their sophomore year in high school and begin the program during the summer before their junior year. It extends through their college education.

Each recipient receives $30,000 in financial support, programs and services. The Atlanta chapter represents an esteemed group of students considered to be elite among their schools’ student body and faculty.

The scholars were recognized for earning GPAs of 3.8 and above while taking an average of five to 12 Advanced Placement classes, participating in multiple extracurricular activities and holding top leadership positions in their schools and communities.

Scholarship recipients are selected during their sophomore year in high school and begin the program during the summer before their junior year and it extends through their college education.

Each recipient receives $30,000 in financial support, programs and services.

Eight students are selected each year in each high school. The Atlanta chapter represents an esteemed group of students considered to be elite among their schools’ student body and faculty.

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