Project GRAD Knoxville held it Annual Scholars Celebration Dinner on Sunday, April 17, 2011 at the Knoxville Convention Center. This year marked the seventh year that Project GRAD has held this exciting dinner to honor high school seniors graduating from Austin-East and Fulton High Schools who have successfully met all requirements to graduate and earn the $4,000 scholarship.
One hundred thirty-four (134) scholars attended the dinner accompanied by their family. As the program began, Lori Tucker (WATE News Anchor) greeted the more than 750 people who were in attendance. Lori introduced Larry Mauldin (Project GRAD Board Chair) who officially welcomed everyone.
As part of Project GRAD’s 10 year celebration, teachers were recognized during the dinner for their hard work and dedication. A video (“Tribute to Teachers”) was created and played for the audience to enjoy before dinner. Following dinner, Dr. Jim McIntyre (Superintendent, Knox County Schools) introduced Governor Bill Haslam who returned to Knoxville to participate in this year’s dinner as Project GRAD celebrates 10 years of serving kids and families. During the Governor’s remarks, he spoke of his involvement with Project GRAD from the beginning and then addressed the 2011 GRAD Scholars.
High school reflections were shared by Amanda Snow (Fulton) and Charles Holland, Jr., (Austin-East). Both speakers reflected on the difference Project GRAD made in their decision to continue their education and attend college. Their Summer Institute experiences were invaluable and also contributed to their decision and exposed them to college life. Both Amanda and Charles talked about the support they each receive from the Project GRAD staff at their schools.
Following high school reflections, Jerry Hodges (Executive Director), presented Governor Bill Haslam with the 2011 Caught Doing Right For Kids award. Governor Haslam was selected as this year’s award recipient because of his leadership and involvement with Project GRAD since it began in Knoxville 10 years ago. Governor Haslam was also recognized as Founding Board Chair Emeritus.
The highlight of the dinner each year is the ‘Scholars Processional’. This is the “red carpet” moment for the scholars who process through the ballroom and walk across the stage as their name is called to receive their medallion and certificate. This years class had the honor of having their medallion presented by Governor Haslam and their certificate presented by Dr. Jimmy Cheek (Chancellor, University of Tennessee).
GRAD College Scholars were invited to the dinner and were in attendance to include members of the College Board. Several of the College Scholars have completed college and are presently working on their Master’s degree. Malcolm Marsh graduated from Fulton in 2010 and is attending college. Malcolm addressed the scholars briefly as he told them to do something great with this opportunity. He also told them that they can make it even though there may be struggles they “can make it.” Malcolm became emotional as he talked about the support he received from Ms. Terreka and Ms. Annette while in high school and now in college. Another GRAD college scholar, Kensey Parker, is a Fulton graduate, Class of 2006 and closed the program with a song called “The Prayer.” Kensey was accompanied by Cory Zimmerman and together, the closing selection was unbelievably power and the perfect way to conclude the program as the scholars were congratulated.
As part of the 10 year celebration, Lori Tucker interviewed GRAD Scholars who have gone on to college and are now in the workforce. Four scholars were selected and Lori interviewed each of them at their workplace. Derrick Smith is now an Academic Advocate who returned to work for Project GRAD, Zackea Harris who is now a teacher, Joel Brown who is now a highly skilled auto mechanic and Anthony McCallister who is now working at the high school that he graduated from in the area of counseling and social work. These interviews played throughout dinner for all to enjoy.
You can follow events from the dinner on twitter.com/projectgrad #PGK2011CelebrationDinner.