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23rd All-County Academic Team celebrated Monday

Posted: May 3, 2018 4:56 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Thirty of this year’s 31 members of the Upchurch & Jowers/Kershaw County School District All-County Academic Team gather for a group photo following a banquet honoring them Monday night at Bethesda Presbyterian Church.

For the 23rd year, Upchurch & Jowers partnered with the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) to host the All-County Academic Team banquet, celebrating the top 31 students from the district’s public high schools.

Thirty of those students attended the banquet held Monday night at Bethesda Presbyterian Church. One Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) student, Ashley Cate Smith, was unable to attend due to playing in a playoff soccer match Monday night.

Upchurch & Jowers President Victor Jowers brought the idea to the school district in the mid-1990s after seeing a roster of the county’s all-star football team. KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said he never tires of hearing the story.

“It’s not only an opportunity to recognize students, but it’s also a celebration of families. They have made sacrifices, sometimes large ones, in order to support their children’s academic success,” Morgan said. “They offer that support unconditionally while establishing expectations.”

Although the criterion to be named to the team has changed somewhat over the years, it is based on a combination of grade point averages and SAT or ACT scores.

Morgan told the students they were ending one stage of their lives and getting ready to start another one. In doing so, he urged them to take the time to thank their parents and other family members for helping them reach their goals.

“Thursday night, I attended the Junior Leadership Kershaw County graduation and Tom Mullikin was the keynote speaker. He said something that I will take with me from that: ‘You can go anywhere from here,’” he said, meaning Kershaw County.

Morgan then introduced Camden High School (CHS) Principal Dan Matthews, who introduced the 10 All-County Academic Team members from his school. As he has for many years, Matthews revealed three things about each of the students even their peers might not know.

For example, the first student brought to the podium, CHS’ Sophia Altieri’s first sentence as a child was “me help myself.”

“She has been independent for a long time,” Matthews said.

Sophia also used to be a member of the Hannah Montana Fan Club, which is why her older brother knows all the songs; and she has watched all 14 seasons of Supernatural.

At 18, Matthews said Ashley Cobb only started walking on her own for three weeks before Monday night’s ceremony.
“She considers herself not handicapped, but handicapable,” he said, adding that Ashley has almost been struck by lightning three times and plays 15 instruments.

Davis Cobb looked like a middle schooler until the 11th grade, has watched the sunrise atop a 10,000-foot volcano and almost failed his driving test because he needed contacts.

Whitley Kahler, whose first name is actually Anna -- her initials are the first three letters of the word “awkward.”

“Coincidence? I think not,” Matthews said. “She only got one spanking as a child and it was for dropping a dumbbell on her brother’s head.”

In addition, Matthews said Whitney was once introduced at a basketball game as “White Collar.”

Of Garrett Lawson, Matthews said he used to camp out in front of his washing machine with his rain boots, sleeping bag and safari hat.

“He considers (those) a few of his first ‘campouts’ on the way to earning his Eagle Scout badge,” Matthews said.

He added that while Garrett is a lifetime Clemson University fan, he is “now excited to be attending … the University of South Carolina this fall.” Matthews also said Garrett told his mother at 4 years old that he would not play any team sport and that she couldn’t make him.

“He has been a member of the cross country and track teams for six years,” Matthews noted.

Anna Lawson, he said, attends Zumba class with her father.

“Way to go, Dad,” Matthews declared, adding that Anna took dance lessons for five years, but says she has no sense of rhythm; she also wanted to be a Walmart cashier when she was little.

When Matthews asked Olivia Sheheen about her three things, she said, “On my 18th birthday, I was just as excited to be giving vaccines to cows as I was to attend my birthday party. I refuse to read a book without reading the last page. I face planted in a little league softball game trying to catch a pop fly.”

Meanwhile, S’bria Steele 1) loves her “baby boy,” Bronx, her Pit bull puppy, more than anything; 2) she can’t peel her own oranges, so her fellow All-County member, Davis, has to do it for her; and 3) “She’s a crier; S’bria cries almost every day in math class.”

Matthews said Davia (“Day-via”) Stuckey has a horrible fear of dogs, insects -- “pretty much all animals.” The most traumatic moment of her childhood was hopping over a fence while being chased by a dog. Yet, Matthews noted that she “practically lives outside and loves the outdoors.”

Finally, Matthews introduced Heather Woolard, who she said can triple jump farther than a kangaroo can hop; and collects fine china with more than 250 pieces of china, for which she sometimes paid as little a 30 cents for each piece in a set.

“She also likes building things and probably would be a master carpenter by now, but her dad won’t let her use power tools,” Matthews said of Heather.

Next, North Central High School (NCHS) Principal David Branham noted that he has only been principal for four years, the same amount of time his members of the All-County Academic Team have been in high school.

“It’s been great to see them grow over those four years,” Branham said. “Not only to see them excel academically, but to see them excel as people.”

He asked the students to tell him a little about themselves.

Breanna Bowen, for instance, danced competitively for 13 years before entering high school, is the recipient of a 2018 Coastal Carolina Teaching Fellow, and is most afraid of lawnmowers.

“So, don’t count on her to cut your grass.”

Morgan Hall’s favorite thing to do is go-kart racing. Branham said Morgan’s most afraid of the unknown, and that the most unusual thing in her locker is batteries.

Branham said Lauren Hendrix is the youngest senior at NCHS.

“She is afraid of boats, and the most unusual thing you will find in her locker is wax,” he said.

Lauren later explained that it’s to help keep her glasses from sliding.

Chance Mangum is most afraid of snakes, Branham said, adding that Chance enjoys playing video games.

“His most embarrassing moment was when he fell asleep in a turkey barn while unloading turkeys,” Branham said.

Of Daisy Noyola, Branham said her most embarrassing moment was she tried to pet a horse and it chased her, making her cry.

“She is most afraid of … horses,” Branham revealed. “The most unusual thing you will find in her book bag is a toy koala.”

Katie Sutherland is left-handed and loves kiwis, Branham said. He said she is also most afraid of spiders.

“She has also sung the North Central alma mater at many events during the past four years,” Branham said, adding that he will miss Katie’s singing.

Branham said Jordan Sweetenburg won the county’s spelling bee in the 5th grade. He is also afraid of clowns and heights.

“So, I guess he won’t be joining the circus,” Branham quipped. “His most embarrassing moment is being a background dancer for a friend’s Michael Jackson performance in elementary school.”

Moving on, Branham said Ethan Wallace “is the sultan of our upcoming high school play, Alladin. He was the 2018 North Central prom king, and he is also most afraid of heights.”

Olivia Walsh loves to wrap presents, took karate when she was 7 years old, is most afraid of bears, and keeps a year-old granola wrapper in her book bag, Branham said.

Finally, Branham introduced Callie Wooten, saying she has an interest in graphic design.

“She has a talent for procrastination, but on her behalf, I will say she wasn’t the last one to turn in their sheet to me,” he said, adding that she, too, is afraid of heights.

It was then L-EHS Assistant Principal Jeffrey Carraway’s turn, pinch-hitting for Principal Worth Thomasson.

Carraway said a fun fact about All-County Academic Team member Curtis Farlett is that he’s been to 11 different schools. Curtis also participates in cross country, track and field, the quiz bowl team, Beta Club, National Honors Society and L-EHS’ student council.

Evan Graves, Carraway said, always presents himself in a positive manner. He has participated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, concert band, Beta Club, student council, Spanish Club, the quiz bowl team, National Honor Society and competes in cross country.

Sarah Johnson told Carraway she likes Italian food and has been to Canada, which she thinks is “amazing.” Sarah runs cross country, is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and is a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club and National Technical Honors Society.

Carraway said Zachary Koeppen has been a cross country runner for four years on both the junior varsity and varsity levels; is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Beta Club and National Honors Society; is student body president on NCHS’s student council; and writes short stories, character ideas and poetry.

“I aspire to someday be an author of both novels and children’s books,” he told Carraway.

The unique thing about Sean Place is that he is teaching himself German, a language NCHS does not offer. According to Carraway, Sean has participated in Boys State, student council, the quiz bowl team, Beta Club, National Honors Society and played varsity soccer.

Zoe Sanders told Carraway she loves taking long drives regardless of the destination and would “love to travel all over the world.” Zoe has participated in the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Key Club, Literacy Express, Junior Leadership, Spanish Club, prom committee, and the Quill & Scroll Society.

She wrote, “I was also co-editor of the school’s Pitchfork newspaper where I could express my love of writing through a journalistic perspective.” She has also worked at Chick-fil-A and F.D. Goodale jewelers; and has volunteered at the animal shelter, Bethesda Presbyterian Church’s vacation Bible school, and with the youth at Pine Grove Baptist Church.

Carraway said Callie Shirley was born in Germany and has three birth certificates. She was a junior volunteer at Lexington Medical Center for three consecutive summers. Callie has participated in the marching and concert bands, Beta Club, National Honor Society, Junior Leadership and is a teacher cadet.

Although she couldn’t attend, Carraway said Ashley Smith is a “country girl at heart” who enjoys riding horses with her family and helping her father on their farm. She plays varsity soccer and runs cross country, and has performed volunteer work through the soccer team, including a sock drive for the homeless and a canned food drive soccer tournament.

Mollie Smith told Carraway she is “shy and reserved,” but that her love for theater has allowed her to break out of her shell and “truly become a different character in a way that shocks anyone who knows me.” Mollie is a member of the Beta Club, National Honors Society, Educators Rising and Novel Group; participated in theater, piano and the L-EHS madrigal singers; and played varsity tennis.

Carraway said something unique about Hanna Tucker is that she is a first-generation college student. She has participated in the Beta Club, National Honor Society, Special Olympics, paint crew (helping in face and body painting to support L-EHS sports teams), softball and cross country.

Finally, Carraway introduced Caroline Webb by pointing out this interesting fact: Caroline can name all of the U.S. presidents and British monarchs. Her clubs and activities include Beta Club, National Honor Society, Key Club, the quiz bowl team, Novel Group, marching band, archery and student council.

The evening ended with Jowers making his annual presentation to Morgan of a large plaque with the names of the 2018 All-County Academic Team members.

“I’ve never said this before, but I think this is the best group of students we’ve ever had,” Jowers said.

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