Mason Jackson didn’t really know what a college scholarship was when he was in fourth grade, but that didn’t diminish his enthusiasm from doing his best in school so he could be recognized by the organization Afro-Americans for an Academic Society when he graduated.
“My parents would say, ‘As long as you work hard and get good grades, you’ll get something,’ ” remembered the 18-year-old Richland High School senior. “Ever since, it’s always been my goal to get nothing below a B, and it’s paid off.”
Mason and Pasco High School senior Samantha Estes will be the top two students honored by the AAAS on Sunday at the group’s 39th annual scholarship event.
The group, which recognizes the academic success of black Tri-City students, plans to honor 422 students at 3 p.m. May 17 at Pasco High and hand out about $29,000 in scholarships.
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“They’ve done a great job,” president Sharon Stone said.
Students can join the AAAS scholarship program once they enter the fourth grade. They are recognized for maintaining a grade point average of 3.0 or better throughout their education, earning scholarship money when they graduate. Thirty-two graduating seniors will be honored, with nearly half receiving scholarships for meeting the requirements.
Mason has a 3.7 GPA at Richland High, where he transferred as a freshman from Pasco. He’s played football throughout high school and also participated in basketball and track.
He’s already accepted a full-ride scholarship to Idaho State University to play football and participate in the school’s honors program. Mason plans to major in biology, microbiology or chemistry as he pursues a goal of attending medical school.
Samantha has nearly a 3.7 GPA. She’s participated in track for three years, served as a student athletic trainer and is a member of the National Honor Society. She has received about $21,000 in scholarships to attend Whitworth University in Spokane, where she plans to pursue a degree in athletic training and physical therapy.
While it’s great to be at the end of high school, to be able to relax and be recognized for years of hard work, Samantha said, it doesn’t take away from the fact that she still has a lot of work ahead in college. And she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I don’t like being low in the class, I like being a leader,” she said.
Along with Mason and Samantha, students receiving scholarships are Lauren Balone, N’haela Baumann, Shayla Cole, Sharon Gebretatios, Talya Jackson, Ayssa Lemarr, Leilani Moody, Monica Pleasant, Kalkidan Questad, Marta Schuldheisz, Malik Sidler, Anna Smith and Dante Tayler.