Tri-City seniors recognized at Afro-Americans for an Academic Society awards ceremony

Herald staff writerMay 19, 2013 

They have a lot to do in the next several weeks.

Finish up their high school classes. Walk across the stage at graduation and accept their diplomas.

Flip their tassels, toss their caps.

Start packing and preparing for college.

But on Sunday, five Tri-City seniors took some out time to reflect on their academic achievements before the annual Afro-Americans for an Academic Society awards ceremony.

The soon-to-be-graduates -- Marina Brown, Cameron Estes, Arisha Fite, Kendreya Skinner and Jamie Wallace -- were among the more than 350 students set to be honored during the event for maintaining at least a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average.

Even in that high-achieving group, they earned a special distinction: they met the grade standards all nine years they were eligible. (AAAS recognizes Afro-American students in Benton and Franklin counties starting in fourth grade.)

How did they do it?

“Dedication to your homework,” said Estes, 17, from Pasco High School.

“Discipline, self motivation,” said Fite, 18, from Kamiakin High School in Kennewick.

And, added Brown, 18, from Kingspoint Christian School in Pasco, “the support (from those around you) is also a really big thing...It makes you want to try harder.”

The young women were to receive some of the about $40,000 in scholarship money presented to seniors during the Sunday event. They also were to get laptops -- gifts they were especially excited about when they spoke to the Herald shortly before the afternoon ceremony.

All five seniors in the “nine consecutive years” club have college plans for the fall. Brown and Wallace, 18, from Richland High, will continue taking classes at Columbia Basin College. Estes is headed to Eastern Washington University and Fite to Seattle Pacific University.

Skinner, 17, from Hanford High in Richland, plans to attend the University of Georgia.

The AAAS ceremony was at Pasco High School.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Duke Mitchell, chairman of CBC’s Board of Trustees, was the keynote speaker. He told the Herald he was impressed by the young women’s tenacity. “It’s fantastic -- the dedication and stick-to-itiveness,” he said. Mitchell referenced a quote from former Secretary of State Colin Powell about how dreams aren’t achieved through magic, but determination and hard work.

“Those women have exhibited that,” he said.

Sharon Straws, vice president of AAAS, said the annual ceremony is a meaningful way to recognize students for academic excellence. “It’s great that the children can be honored (for) what they have accomplished over the year,” she said. “I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

As the start of the ceremony drew near, Brown, Estes, Fite, Skinner and Wallace were nervous; they each had to speak during the event.

They also were excited and proud.

“It’s been long and hard, and finally we’re here,” Estes said.

Added Brown: “It just shows that hard work pays off.”

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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