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Upchurch & Jowers celebrates All-County Academic Team
Upchurch and Jowers kids
The 17th annual Upchurch and Jowers All-County Academic Team honors the top ten seniors at each high school in the county, as well as the student with the highest ACT/ SAT score from each school. The 31 college-bound seniors were each given a plaque. The first academic team was held in 1996 to honor academic excellence. - photo by Miciah Bennett

Family as a support system appeared to be a theme at Monday evening’s 17th annual Upchurch & Jowers All-County Academic Team Banquet at Bethesda Baptist Church. Upchurch & Jowers and the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) honored the 31 best and the brightest high school seniors in the county. The academic team is made up of the top 10 students from each of Kershaw County’s three high schools, as well as the student with the highest ACT/SAT score at each school.

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan and Kershaw County Board of School Trustees Chair Mara Jones said the Upchurch & Jowers/KCSD partnership formed before working with the school district became popular.

“After reading a story in the (newspaper) about the all-county football team, it occurred to us that athletic excellence is honored often but, sometimes, academic excellence is overlooked. Hence, the Upchurch and Jowers All-County Academic Team was born,” Upchurch & Jowers customer service insurance representative Vicki McLemore said.

“The idea is to recognize the kids,” Joe Upchurch said. “It’s been a great 17 year partnership.”

Upchurch & Jowers -- a home, business and auto insurance company founded in 1961 -- co-sponsored the academic team with National Grange Mutual Insurance Company. In its 17 years, only 465 former KCSD students have been Upchurch & Jowers All-County Academic Team honorees. 

Students announced their post-graduation plans, recalled their favorite memories and thanked family members before accepting their plaques. Many cited their parents as their “rock” throughout their high school careers and acknowledged their favorite teachers.

Joseph “Jo Jo” Tiller, 18, of Camden High School (CHS), stays active with tennis, is the president of the National Honor Society (NHS) and is active in his church’s youth group. He said his family is “really supportive and pushed me to do the best I can. I tend to focus more on school. An education is really important and doing well in school will me out later.”

Fellow All-County Academic Team member Kemi Balogun, 18, is senior class president, president of one of CHS’ service clubs, and is active in NHS and Beta Club. Her family is from Africa and they “have worked really hard to get me here.”

Both students have siblings they encourage to do their best and get an education.

The 2012 Upchurch & Jowers All-County Academic Team members are:

Lugoff-Elgin High School -- Aaron Chandler Cleverly, Taylor Christian Cornor, Justin Ward Earnhart, Justin Robert Gilstrap, Katelyn Nicole Johnson, Victoria Leigh McElveen, Kandice Elizabeth Miles, Taylor Marie Phipps, Zachary Dillon SMith, Sean Alexander Stewart

North Central High School -- Stacy Marie Boone, Michelle Lee Davis, Carman Willie Fowler, Tyler Kendrick Harris, Miranda Kelsey Peebles, Lindsay Michelle Privette, Tiffany Lee Rogers, Samantha Brooke Snipes, Christopher Jermaine Turner, Bradley Taylor Vincent

Camden High School -- Oluwakemi Margaret Balugun, Corey Briette Blanks, Alyssa Jean Buschman, Rachel Elaine Cobb, Davis Craig Goodrich, Ashley Elizabeth Miles, Carolina Rosario Olano, Alexandra Ann Stephens, Joseph Boykin Tiller, Christian Sawyer Watts, Kelly Marie Wilson