LACEY – For some students, applying for a scholarship requires good grades, extra-curricular sports and activities, and community service. For others, where drugs, poverty, medical conditions or abuse may be a factor, just getting to school every day can be a major accomplishment.
The Hawks Prairie Rotary Club ( recently sponsored seven student recognition awards aptly titled, "Hawk Prairie Heroes." Teachers and counselors from North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) were asked to nominate students who had overcome a social, emotional, or financial barrier to improve themselves in the school environment and/or provide a distinctive service to the school or community. "We wanted to recognize those students who succeeded in school even when the odds were stacked against them in life," said Hawks Prairie Rotarian and Asst. Supt. of NTPS, Brian Wharton, who presented the award. "These students have gone above and beyond major barriers to graduate on time -- including foster care, medical disabilities, poverty and so much more many of us cannot even comprehend. They are truly our heroes." The students and their friends and family were invited to a Rotary luncheon where they received a plaque and a $250 scholarship award. This year's recipients include: • Sean Joyce (River Ridge High School), who underwent an eye implant this year which helped him concentrate on his grades and improve his school work and self-confidence. He is the Skills USA Chapter President and plans to attend South Puget Sound Community College's (SPSCC) to study graphic design and/or computer animation. • Richard Levine (North Thurston High School), whose interest in auto mechanics helped him raise his grade point average to a 3.0 and get out of trouble with police. He is working toward his National Automotive Technician Education Certificate and plans to attend South Puget Sound Community College's automotive program. • Jemila Lee-Booker (Timberline High School), was in foster care until 2005, moving schools and families four times. Last year she moved to Lakewood and commuted to school every day and to a job at OSPI. She is expecting her first child in August and plans to go to college to be a secondary high school teacher. • Merutsuki "Meru" Inuyoukai (North Thurston High School) is deaf and her first language is American Sign Language, which is not spoken in her home. She has struggled with communication but has worked very hard to graduate and plans to attend the Washington Post High School Deaf Program with an interest in art and clothing design. • Sommer Sanchez (River Ridge High School) has suffered with scoliosis for most of her life, including undergoing several back surgeries in 10th grade. Her mother's sudden death shortly after her surgery challenged her even more, but she managed to pass all her classes and plans to enter the medical field with studies at SPSCC. • Brianna Bartlette (South Sound High School) overcame many odds growing up including drugs in the home, the loss of more than 10 family and friends and a near fatal house fire. Inspired by her mother who went back to school herself to be a counselor, Brianna has been on the honor roll and plans to attend SPSCC and eventually Washington State University to study diagnostics. • The 7th recipient was AJ Young (Timberline).