MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Exchange Club’s ACE award recognizes local high school students who have overcome different challenges in their lives and have turned their lives around by achieving personal and academic success. To be eligible for the award, students must show they are going to graduate high school and go on to some form of higher education, be it college or trade school.
Each area high school nominates a student for the award; an overall winner is chosen from among the nominees. That student then goes on to the district competition.
Nominees receive a check for $100, and the winner is given a $1,000 scholarship that is given to the school they choose to attend.
Students nominated for 2009 are Ashley O’Neil, Centerburg; Leroy Strandell, Danville; Jordan Buchanan, East Knox; Lakyn Lance, Fredericktown; Jessica Slayton, Knox County Career Center; Kash’Den Gordon, Mount Vernon Academy; and Aaron Gantt, Mount Vernon.
O’Neil is most proud of earning her Girl Scout Gold Award and hopes to become a police officer. She has four siblings and a special-needs brother who requires 24-hour care. O’Neil has helped her mother shoulder the burden of caring for the family, and has worked hard to be able to attend Tiffin University.
Strandell, originally from Illinios, has been in Knox County four years. He is a survivor of a one-parent household, and his mother is very proud of what he has become. His football coach extols his leadership qualities and his positive influence, which extends beyond the football field. Strandell has been accepted to Muskingum College.
Buchanan’s experience has shown her that — with a love of a good mother and, most of all, of God — she can change from a love of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. This life change is her proudest accomplishment. Buchanan will attend Mount Vernon Nazarene University, majoring in Urban Ministry.
Lance started high school as a shy and quiet student. By the end of her sophmore year she had not only overcome her shyness but also made the cheerleading team. The amazing part of that story is the physical problems with which she has had to contend. Surgeries for a cleft palate, and other surgery to help her walk, have not become a barrier to her success. She has not yet decided on a college, but hopes to work with children in daycare or preschool.
Slayton grew up with a dysfunctional family, which led to depression and drug and alcohol use. She has overcome these problems in the last two years with help from family and friends. She plans to persue a career in psychology.
Gordon came to Mount Vernon Academy from the inner city in Cleveland. Initially he had a bad “don’t want to be here” attitude. His turnaround was dramatic and he now believes his proudest accomplishment was coming to MVA in the first place. He hopes to persue a career in abnormal pschology.
Gantt was nominated by his guidance counselor because of the remarkable transformation of his life. He started hanging with the wrong crowd in high school, and his grades suffered. He turned around the negative influences in his life and the negative image he had, and now plans to attend Ashland University and persue a career in sports information.
Jenny Williams of the Exchange Club then announced Slayton as the overall winner. A scholarship in the amount of $1,000 will be awarded to her school.