For nine years, three Tri-City graduating high school seniors have been studying hard to earn first-class grades.
On Sunday, the trio were honored in ceremonies at Southridge High School by the Afro-Americans for an Academic Society.
Each May, the AAAS honors African-American students in the Tri-City area who have earned good marks from fourth-grade through their high school senior year.
Now the three students honored Sunday face a new challenge: keeping their grades up as each heads off to college. The scholarship money they received from the AAAS will help pay for their college education.
The three students were among 40 high school seniors who received some form of a scholarship from the AAAS on Sunday. In all, the group honored the academic achievements of 415 students in grades fourth through 12th.
Wesley Henderson, 18, from Chiawana High School, said his inspiration for keeping his grades up definitely came from his parents.
"I knew if I didn't keep them up, sports would be taken away," he said. Henderson has played basketball and football for four years and plans to continue playing basketball at Columbia Basin College next fall.
Henderson plans to attend CBC for two years before transferring to a four-year school, likely Washington State University, to study either business communications or nuclear engineering. His scholarship from the AAAS was $2,500.
The possibility of winning a scholarship from the AAAS gave him something to work for each year, he said, adding "this honor has been a long time coming."
Kierra Groce, 17, of Pasco High School, expressed similar feelings, saying the discipline of cheerleading -- this is her 11th year of cheering -- helped her in her studies. After graduation, she plans to attend CBC for two years, then transfer to a four-year college to get a degree in nursing. Her scholarship from the AAAS was $3,500.
Keondra Simpson, 18, of Richland High School, said she pushed each year to keep her grades up.
"I had a lot of help from my family, my coaches, my teammates," said the longtime softball player.
She, too, plans to attended CBC for two years and then, perhaps, transfer to WSU. Her goal is to become a physician assistant. Her scholarship from the AAAS was $4,500.
In addition to scholarship money, the three also received laptop computers donated by Sadie and Isadore Henderson of Pasco.
Eight other seniors also received cash scholarships. The amounts have not been disclosed because several came from anonymous donors who do not want their names or the dollar figure disclosed.
They are: Sira Toure, Marlando Sparks, Seth Cook, Patricia Anyango, Dorothy Apai, Ajanae Kinsey, Hannah Mitchel and Kinsey Alea Tailor.
The AAAS scholarships came from businesses and individuals in the Tri-City area, said Sharon Straws, AAAS president. There were also separate community scholarships from organizations such as The Links Foundation, Columbia Basin College and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
"Individuals also fund scholarships. One was from Tammy Deery of Mesa who gave one in honor of her two fathers, Raymond L. Bollineau and Jack Zeller and the Janice Tillman memorial scholarship, given out by Andrew Tillman," Straws said. "In all, we gave out $50,000 in scholarships."
The mission of the donation-driven organization, founded in 1976, is to motivate Afro-American students in the Tri-Cities and surrounding area to achieve academic excellence. The program began in 1976 with Pasco students and in 1996 expanded to include public and private schools in Kennewick, Richland, Benton City and Prosser.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org