A.C.E. Award winners announced

Published 7:14 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2007

“We worked hard and it was a tough decision to make,” Joey Temples, Exchange Club President said on Wednesday. “The A.C.E. award is Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award. It is about hard work, and overcoming adversities, and dramatic changes during high school.”

This award is about students who are not often in the spotlight, but who serve as an example to other students that circumstances do not determine outcomes, people determine outcomes. It is about attitudes in overcoming obstacles. The A.C.E. winner is a student who has overcome great physical, emotional or social obstacles, and the Picayune Exchange Club searched diligently for students worthy of this description.

Jessi Newman of Picayune Memorial High School, and Lillian Smith of Pearl River Central High School were chosen to receive this prestigious award.

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Dr. Liz Pope introduced Lillian Smith to the Exchange Club members on Wednesday, by describing some of the adversities Smith has overcome during her high school years.

“She is the daughter of Maxine and Roland Smith of Carriere. She has taken jobs to help her mom and dad due to her mom’s back surgeries and her dad’s heart problems. Her after school jobs have helped supplement her family’s finances,” Pope told the club.

“Hurricane Katrina created another setback for Lillian’s family. Katrina destroyed a portion of their mobile home. Insurance did not cover the damages and they could not get help from FEMA. Lillian slept on the couch until they could gradually acquire enough lumber and building materials to repair the damage. Lillian’s after school jobs helped to pay for these materials. She helped her dad do the repairs a little at a time until they finished the job.

“Lillian has not allowed the responsibilities associated with her parents’ health problems to cause her to not pursue her dreams. She keeps a positive attitude and is making plans to attend Pearl River Community College to pursue a degree in nursing. Lillian is also active in her community as a volunteer at the animal shelter and at the Special Olympics.”

Patricia Smith, Counselor at Picayune Memorial High School nominated Jessi Newman whose parents died while she was very young. Her grandmother, Deborah LeCompte and her aunt, Janice Williams have lovingly cared for her.

Jerry Cumberland of PMHS introduced Jessi Smith to the Exchange Club on Wednesday.

“Jessi is 53rd in her class of 195 after engaging in both Honors and Advanced Placement courses,” he told the club. “Over her high school career, Jessi has been a member of the Beta Club, Champions for Children Mentoring, Forensics, Pride of the Tide Dance Team, NJROTC and is an honor student.

“She not only attends school and has a job to support her financial needs, but also finds time to help children in our community who are also dealing with unfortunate circumstances. She mentors students at the elementary schools, as well as in her church.”

Cumberland told the club that he admires her strength and courage, and because of her, he looks harder to see the soul of a young person. He said she was an anchor for the team and emphasized that she had left a mark on his heart.

“It was really nice to be able to give these kids this vote of confidence,” Joey Temples, President of the Exchange Club said. “They were so appreciative, and when you see a reaction like that, you know you’ve chosen well.”