Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First Assembly Christian School sophomore wins a top award

First Assembly Christian High School student Sarah Hendrix recently won a top spot in a high school essay contest conducted by the Bill of Rights Institute.

Representing the Southern Region, Sarah, a sophomore, earned third place and $250 in the sixth annual Being an American Essay Contest.

More than 89,000 students attending public and private high schools and homeschool students from all 50 states have participated in the contest to date, with nearly $500,000 in prize money awarded to winning students and their teachers.

The contest asked students: “How does the Constitution establish and maintain a culture of liberty?”

In her winning essay, Sarah chose the topic “All Men are Created Equal.”

She wrote: “All Americans are born with the same rights, even if they are born into less than ideal families or situations. Using these rights, Americans are able to use their own free will and take responsibility for the actions that they choose. The equality that the Constitution gives to us also gives us liberty. Liberty provides all individuals with the ability to express themselves and to have a say in decisions that affect their lives. The liberty that Americans enjoy daily would not be possible without the equality that the United States Constitution provides for its citizens.”

For more information on the Being an American Essay Contest, visit

Photo: Sarah Hendrix. Courtesy of Rachel Gillespie.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Recognizing students in need

Sometimes, all someone ever needs is a helping hand.

The Myers Park Intentional Student Leadership group is beginning to understand the needs of students in their school. And they are on a mission to help their struggling peers by raising money to establish a Communities In Schools program at Myers Park High.

Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg is a part of the nation's leading dropout prevention organization. The mission behind CIS is to surround students with community support and help them achieve success in school.

Currently, Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg serves more than 6,500 students annually in 44 high-poverty Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools who are most at-risk for dropping out.

So far, the students have raised $20,000 to go toward establishing CIS at Myers Park High. However, the students must raise $70,000 before the program is implemented, they said.

Want to help? Check out their video:

For more information: Email Communities In Schools' Romy Graham, at

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fashion inspired by spikes, glass, chains

Inspiration can come from anywhere. For Kevin Carter, fashion inspiration comes from leathers, chains, spikes and broken glass.

In December, we got advice from Kevin, a junior at West Mecklenburg High. Kevin is a fashion designer who has been showcased in Charlotte Seen Fashion Week and had a four-page spread in Cinhte Magazine.

He recently showcased his work in Mode Noir Fashion Week in February and Charlotte Seen Passport to Fashion in April. Following graduation, he hopes to move to New York to pursue fashion.

Since I spoke to him in December, Kevin has created two more lines of clothing.
Here are a few photos of the new kevinVain collections:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

If we could change Charlotte...

A few weeks ago, Ayana Dixon, a behavior modification technician at the Right Choices Program held on J.T. Williams' campus, told me she was holding an essay contest with her students. She wanted to know how they would change Charlotte. Here is what second-place winner Lorena Marquez, a sophomore, and third-place winner Dabria Spurgeon, a freshman, had to say (edited for brevity and clarity):

Lorena Marquez essay:
No human or animal is perfect, nor any city or state. But there are things that we could do to improve Charlotte. If I had the money and power I wouldn’t promise to make Charlotte the best place to live, but I would make it more managed and organized then it is now.

... There is so much poverty, so many deaths, and too many uneducated teenagers in the streets. On January 26, 2011 there were a total of 12,908 homeless people counted in the state of North Carolina. Out of that whole population there were a total of 2,987 homeless children. If I had the power to change poverty in Charlotte I would build a facility that would give them a place to live and eat. I would buy enough beds to give each a place to rest comfortably instead of having them sleep out in the streets ...

Another change I would work for is educating high school drop outs, giving them a second chance to make a better decision for their future. Honestly, I would abolish the law stating that teenagers can drop out at the age of 16. I feel like that’s an encouragement to drop out. 30,688 N.C. inmates have been recorded to be high school dropouts. In North Carolina 83 students drop out EACH DAY! We are the future of the United States and with few people earning a good education, how many doctors will we have to help cure the sick? How many professional dentists will clean our teeth? ...

Dabria Spurgeon essay: The city where you can’t go a mile without seeing Jordan’s ... where you have New Jack, TTG, and Taylor Gang living all in one community ... where people kill over money, shoes, clothes and family ...

Teenagers in the generation before us could stay outside all day as long as they made it home before the street lights came on ... Our generation can’t even leave the doors unlocked when we leave home. We’ve learned to entertain ourselves at home and communicate through the new forms of media and technology. We have to make a change, take a chance. But how can a teenager like me change the whole city of Charlotte?

Nobody knows, but it’s at least worth a try. I’m only one ... but the change begins with me. I won’t follow the road others take! ...

I can ... have a voice in my community, school, and city (telling) them we need to make a change in our everyday lives.

One more thing I can do is write a compassionate letter to Mr. Obama addressing the things that go on in every state and making a difference by giving children something productive to do with their time. ... I will try to make the neighborhoods I once lived in better and bigger for the next generation ...

America is in great turmoil and it’s up to me and you to change that ... Don’t wait until something tragic happens, start now!

Friday, May 18, 2012

If I could change Charlotte...

A few weeks ago, Ayana Dixon, a behavior modification technician at the Right Choices Program held on J.T. Williams' campus, told me she was holding an essay contest for her students. She wanted to know how they would change Charlotte. Here is what winner Shekinah Williams, a junior, had to say (edited for brevity and clarity):

If I could change Charlotte, I would try my best to get all the negativity out of Charlotte, because you have to start somewhere. I would let teens and children know you don’t have to be persuaded into doing what you know is wrong. I would let them know dare to be different; instead of trying to fit in, be yourself. I would let them know that we are the next generation and if we don’t stand up for what we believe is right, then there’s no telling what will happen to our generation.

Charlotte will be a better place if parents young and old raise their kids up to have respect for others. If all the negative people that are older become more positive and show the new generation coming up how to act and how to carry themselves, then we would follow.

The problem is people live by what they were raised on. I hear the saying “If my mama do it then I can do it,” or “This is how I was raised, this is all I know.” Comments like this get passed from generation from generation because that’s all some people know. Even though many were raised a certain way, they still know wrong from right. So we as teens and adults need to stand up for what we believe regardless of our background.

If I could change Charlotte, I would try and help those who are going through the struggle. I would encourage young boys and girls my age that they can make it and be whatever they want to be in life. I would take young teens and kids out of town to educational places so they can see what they can do or what they can become.

It’s a lot of teens who have been put down all their life so they feel the streets is the way to go. So they turn to drugs, sex, skipping school to get away from all the things they’re going through. There are a lot of teens trying to bring other teens down, because they’re in a bad situation. So peer pressure is one of the highest things going up in society today. Teens need to learn how to “LEAD” and not follow. If it’s more positive people in Charlotte, all the negative people will say “Oh they’re doing good and on the right track. Let me follow them.”

I once went through a phase with ... running away, and doing illegal things, and in the outcome I didn’t get anywhere but in jail and falling behind in school. I feel, yes, some of the things I was doing was because of peer pressure and thinking I had to do and be like everyone else.

I had to realize I’m my own person and when I got locked up and failing grades, I was all by myself, just me, and none of those friends who I was out there with was anywhere to be found. So now today I can say I learned the hard way.

I feel I’m already helping change Charlotte for the better, because (with) everything I’ve been through, I can tell young girls: Don’t go the way I went; it’s only going to lead you to destruction. Boys, money, partying, acting out, jail, drugs, and fighting, all those things won’t get you anywhere in life. Do the right thing, because there were some people who didn’t have a chance to turn their life around for the better.

Continue to read the Young Achievers blog. On Friday, we will post excerpts from the second- and third-place winners in Dixon's essay contest.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Simple walk can lead to a better life for others

Across the nation, thousands of individuals suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases.

Jacob Castles, from Indian Trail, is among that number and was diagnosed with chronic ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory disease of the large intestine.

Jacob has seen his share of major surgeries - once in February 2009 for a total colectomy and another in August 2009 for an internal ostomy.

Known collectively as inflammatory bowel diseases, these chronic illnesses affect about 1.4 million Americans, including some 140,000 children younger than 18, according to

But the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America is on a mission to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis for patients like Jacob.

Community members will have the opportunity to participate in the upcoming Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Carolinas Take Steps Walk on May 20, 2012 at 4 p.m. at Freedom Park.

Take Steps helps support patient programs, enhances professional education efforts and propels research for a cure. In the past four years, the organization succeeded in bringing together over 100,000 people and raised about $32 million to help further CCFA's mission.

How to get involved:

Photo: Jacob Castles stands with his brother, Luke. Photo courtesy of Monica Wissbaum.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Special words for moms everywhere

For all the mothers out there, here is a slice of how much you are appreciated. The following segments are written by winners of the State Farm Essay Contest. Winners include Sara Norman from Forest Park Elementary, Sam Ramirez from Bostian Elementary, Dalton Ellis from Fred L. Wilson Elementary, and Kinley Guilbe from Fred L. Wilson Elementary.

By: Sara Norman
Angel Sent from Heaven,
I love her very much.
She smells like cotton candy.
She works real hard for us.

She holds my hand when I am afraid,
And wipes my tears when I cry.
There’s no greater bond that’s shared,
Besides the one that between she and I .

Being a single parent isn’t always easy,
But she always does what she can.
She makes life so much so much easier,
And for that she holds my heart
In the palm of her hand.

Best friend she’s mine
And forever she will be
Cause there is no greater love shared
Than the love that’s shared between

By: Sam Ramirez 

My mom is a prize winning mom because she is always nice not just to her family but to everyone she meets! She inspires me to be a great person to my friends, cousins, and brother, soon to be brother, my mom is pregnant! It’s the third boy she’s had! We still don’t know what we are going to name him. All I know is whatever name is best my mom will know!

My mom is a school teacher so she also inspires me to do good in school. So far I have been on A/B honor roll and if I could thank anyone it would be my mom. She always makes me do my work. Even though it’s not fun it still keeps me out of trouble at school. All that is great stuff about my mom but my favorite thing about her is that she is funny! She always turns things that make you mad into a joke and makes you laugh. That’s why my mom is a prize winning mom.

By: Dalton Ellis 
Dear Mom,

In my book you are a winning mom in every way. I like how you dance in the car, with the music way up. And I don’t care if people stare. Because you dance like nobody’s business. I like how your food looks bad, but really your food is better than Paula Dean’s food. And I love how you tell a joke. You teach us things, and that will always make you better than any other Mom. And I just love how you sing, because if you put every bird together, you would beat them easily! When you say you are bad at math, that’s a big lie! If you never win a prize or get a ribbon, in my book you are the most loving mother I could have. Thank you.

Love, Dalton

By: Kinley Guilbe 
Intelligent: my grandma teaches things me every day.

Love: she gives me the love and care I need
Old: She maybe old but shes the best grandma I ever had
Valuable: your no ordinary grandma
Energy: You always have the energy to do something

Mother: you are like a mother to me but even better
Young: you may be old but your secret is safe with me

Genealogy: you like to find out history about your family
Rest: me and my sister may be a handful, but we give you time to rest
Author: you love to write stories all the time
Nice: your nice to everyone even people you don’t know
Dream: you dream positive things not bad
Morning: every morning you drive me to school on time
Alive: Grandma I wouldn’t have done anything without you!

Essays and photos courtesy of Kristina L. Tutterow Cook, State Farm insurance account representative.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Helping neighbors in need earns student recognition

To be a “hero” can be as simple as reaching out to a neighbor in need - so that’s exactly what 11-year-old Destiny Sarno did.

And she is now being recognized for her hard work.

The N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service has presented the 2012 Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service to five recipients from Union County.

This year, Destiny is among the recipients being honored. She is recognized for her service as a volunteer with the American Red Cross Union County Chapter.

At the Red Cross, Destiny volunteers with the annual Heroes campaign - a grassroots fundraising and awareness campaign that raises money to support local needs for disaster relief, health and safety education.

Destiny pledged to raise $1,000 during the campaign period. By sending emails, letters, notes and hosting mini events, she was able to exceed her goal and raise $1,500.

This was enough money to assist two families.

This marks the 34th consecutive year of the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. Each year, the award highlights people who have shown compassion for their neighbors by making a contribution to their community through volunteer service.

Other 2012 Governor’s Award recipients include: Teresa and Jeff Weis; and John, Jill, Kelli, Micah and Caroline Fagala (you can read a Young Achievers story about the Fagalas at

Contact me:
Do you know a Young Achiever? Are you a Young Achiever? Email me,

Photo: Destiny Sarno stands with Sheila Crunkleton, Union County community executive for the American Red Cross. Photo courtesy of Jerri Haigler.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Young Achievers launches video interviews

Good morning Young Achievers! We are launching a new video project that highlights Young Achievers in the area and we want to hear from you. Do you know a Young Achiever that we should interview on camera?

Meet our first on-camera interview:
Elexus White, a senior at Garinger High, is the classic hard worker. She is an employee, an athlete, a student, a charitable giver and a journalist. Her seasons are filled with catching public transportation to three part-time jobs. Elexus will be attending Ohio State University in the fall.
Contact: Do you know a Young Achiever? Are you a Young Achiever? Email me at

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

'From the Heart' film shares stories of bullied youth

Every one of us knows someone, or is someone who has been bullied. Tonight on television, nine local youth open up and talk about their experiences being bullied.

In a 30-minute documentary called "From the Heart: Transforming Bullying to Caring," students share their personal stories.

 One of the stories features Evan Morales, a senior at Northwest School of the Arts. Evan details his struggles with bullies after telling his family and friends he is gay.

"From my own experience, (victims) feel so alone for being different," Evan said. "But being different is a good thing ... Be proud." The film was made in Charlotte-area schools by filmmaker Beverly Penninger of Naka Productions.

Included in the film are U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins, author Mike Buchanan and Girls on the Run International founder Molly Barker.

Viewing schedule on WTVI:
Wednesday, May 9 at 8 p.m.
Thursday, May 10 at 1 a.m.
Sunday, May 13 at 5 p.m.
Wednesday, May 16 at 2:30 a.m.

Music videos to soothe a stressful day

Check out the latest videography work coming out of Mallard Creek High. Video students collaborated with the school’s guitar class to create music videos. The clips highlight guitar improvisation. Enjoy:

Videos: Courtesy of Kristin St.Martin, visual arts department chair at Mallard Creek High.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gaston County Teen Court takes home first place

Each year, Teen Court programs from across the state meet for an annual Teen Court Summit, to test students' knowledge of the courtroom.

This year, 12 teams traveled to Wilmington on March 16 to compete as attorneys, clerks, bailiffs and defendants.

At the competition, the Gaston County Teen Court team finished in first place.

Teen Court is an alternative justice system for first-time youthful offenders, ages 10 to 15. Youth offenders are granted a second chance when they admit guilt and agree to be tried and sentenced by teens in the teen court program.

By successfully completing the teen court hearing and sentence requirements, the offender avoids a permanent criminal conviction for the crime committed.

Photo: Steven Morris (front), James Wilkes (second row, left), Steven Allen, Sam Amarasinghe, Alex Szucs, Jared Lowe, Dakota Whisnant and chaperone Brandon Hamrick (back). Photo courtesy of Wendy Whisnant.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teens travel for Glee

Want to take a look at the competition? I thought you all would enjoy viewing a few of the eight schools competing in the North Carolina Glee Club Competition on May 5. Groups will travel to Atkins Academic and Technology High School in Winston-Salem to compete. Tickets will be available at the door: adults cost $15 and children ages 3-6 are $5.

The following groups will compete in this order:
Mitchell High School Show Choir
Wonders from AL Brown High School
UNCG Glee from Middle College at UNC-Greensboro
The Cantillating Camels from Atkins A&T High School
West Brunswick High School Show Choir Faith from
Wesleyan Christian Academy
Myers Park Glee Club
RJ Reynolds High School Show Choir

Myers Park High video

West Brunswick High video

Middle College at UNC Greensboro video
Simon G Atkins A&T High School video
Mitchell High video

RJ Reynolds High video

AL Brown High video