The road to success is not always a straight line. In fact, some children and youth can be heading in the wrong direction altogether. On Thursday, May 26, family members, teachers, school officials and community leaders gathered at Carleton North High School to pay tribute to students who corrected their path and present them with a Turn Around Achievement Award.
During the dinner and awards ceremony, teachers and administrators shared heartfelt stories about the remarkable efforts of students from a half dozen northern Carleton schools to set their lives in a positive direction.
Student recipients included Marcus Lint from Florenceville Middle School, Carsen Hamilton and Skyler Pelletier from Centreville Community School, Jakob Chilco of Bristol Elementary, Cash DeMerchant from Bath Community School, Jennifer Jade Stone from Carleton North High School and Mayson DeMerchant from Florenceville Elementary School.
CNHS principal Jason Smith hosted the annual event, sponsored by the Bath Lions Club.
Gerald Sullivan, along with Sarah Pemberton, represented the Lions Club. He said the Lions have helped fund the critical event for the past decade, noting how the stories of the Turn Around Award winners always touch his heart.
"It's one of the most moving nights of my life," he said.
Noting life is about learning, Sullivan said success or failure is based on attitude.
"You can't control what people do or say, but you can control what you do or say," Sullivan told the children and families on hand.
Anglophone West School District Subject Coordinator Colleen Dyer Wylie, who happily filled in for Director of Schools Jay Colpitts, paraphrased Nelson Mandela to emphasize the accomplishments of the award-winning students.
"Don't always judge me by what I accomplish, but how many times I've fallen down and got back up," she said.
As a reflection of the Turn Around Awards' impact on the greater community, Mayors Michael Stewart of Centreville, Karl Curtis of Florenceville-Bristol, and Mike Allen of Bath took part in the event to deliver congratulations to the students and the teachers who supported them.
Curtis stressed the importance of the Turn Around Award, and why he makes it a point to attend.
"I will never miss one," he said. "I'll cancel other things to be here."
Allen urged the students to continue in the direction they had already established.
"Always make sure you look forward," he said. "You can't change what's in your past."
Following the dinner, teachers presented the award-winning students with plaques signifying their achievement and shared stories of the students' determined efforts to overcome obstacles before them.
Teacher and administrator Cindy Pearson talked about Florenceville Middle School's Marcus Lint's "tremendous development" in middle school, overcoming early frustrations with teachers and fellow students.
Teacher Linda Ferguson shared a moving story about how she and Bristol Elementary student Jakob Chilco grew to trust each other and how Jakob overcame reading and writing difficulties to become an avid reader and writer of many stories in many genres.
Teacher Iris Hitchcock shared the tale of Centreville Community School student Carsen Hamilton's maturation into a "responsible, respectful young man." The Grade 8 student's bio describes him as "a great model of what it means to turn around one's behaviour and work ethic.'
Centreville Community teacher Jennie Niles presented the award to Grade 5 student Skylar Pelletier for his journey to becoming a "role model for others. His cheerful attitude and positivity are infectious."
Bath Community School teacher Beth Thomas awarded Cash DeMerchant for the "personal and emotional growth" he showed this year. The brochure bio described him as "a reader and an artist with an amazing sense of humour and wit."
Principal Smith presented the award to CNHS student Jennifer Jade-Stone, noting her growth into a "more confident, assured, and respectful young woman." He said CNHS staff know she will carry that confidence and respect into a successful life.
Florenceville Elementary teacher Alexandra Green presented the Turn Around Award to Grade 5 student Mayson DeMerchant for the growth he demonstrated in problem-solving skills over the school year. His bio described Mayson as "caring and kind, and always a big help with the other students on the playground who need a friend."
Smith praised the students, their families, teachers and administrative staff for helping the young students chart a new path, noting it "takes a lot of work" by everyone involved. He said these awards recognize the commitment, especially by the students.
"This is very meaningful," he said.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun