From personal achievements to selfless efforts on behalf of others, several Columbia County residents deserve special recognition:
First on the list is Daniel Powell, a Columbia Middle School eighth-grader who has proven to be Columbia Countys all-time champion speller.
Daniel didnt win in the recent regional spelling bee; that honor went to a Joe Shepherd, who set quite a record by winning the event for the second year in a row.
But Daniel has set some records of his own. Hes been the best speller at his school every year since hes been old enough to compete. And before Joes two-year winning streak, Daniel was the areas best speller, competing in the national spelling bee.
Daniel will be a ninth-grader next year, no longer eligible for spelling bee competition. But you can bet his abilities will serve him well as he moves on to the challenges of high school - and hell continue to be a source of pride for his parents, Tim and Alana Powell of Martinez.
Another middle-schooler has earned recognition, too, but for different reasons. Lakeside Middle School student Marcus Perry, a 13-year-old who has spent nearly his entire life battling kidney disease, proves that illness is all about attitude - and his couldnt be more positive.
Because of that sunny outlook, Marcus is serving as Georgias goodwill ambassador for the Childrens Miracle Network, traveling around the country to help raise the profile of childrens hospitals.
He has won all of our hearts at the Childrens Medical Center, says Cheryl Grace, the Childrens Miracle Network director for the Childrens Medical Center at MCG. He represents bravery, perseverance and courage for what he had to endure and the way he endured it.
Marcus parents, Hubert and Stephanie Perry, have a kid to be proud of; so does his community.
Over at Evans Middle School, there are plenty of kids to be proud of. But its a teacher who has won recognition.
Lorraine Hall is Columbia Countys Teacher of the Year. But more importantly, she recently was notified that she is one of 12 semifinalists for 2004 Georgia Teacher of the Year.
She certainly goes above and beyond whats required in the classroom, says her principal, Myrel Seigler.
Just as Daniel Powell set a record of wins in spelling bees, Columbia County teachers have a pretty good streak going, too: This is the third year in a row one of our teachers has been named a semifinalist for state teacher of the year. Hall joins the distinguished company of Harlem High math teacher Joyce Cheek and former Greenbrier High science teacher Brian Campbell, who made it to the finals in the past two years.
Five finalists will be named in two weeks, with the states teacher of the year named in late April. Heres hoping that for Hall and Columbia County, the third time in the semi-finals is the charm.
One Columbia County student, sadly, isnt with us any more. But thanks to the efforts of fellow students and caring parents, Brandon Laytons memory will live on.
Layton was killed recently when his car was struck head-on by a vehicle careening the wrong way on River Watch Parkway. The other driver has been charged with drunken driving.
Determined not to let the popular Lakeside High School seniors death be in vain, the schools Parent, Teacher, Student Organization held a battle of the bands to raise money for a scholarship in Laytons memory. The event raised nearly $2,000 in the opening effort for the scholarship.
We want his death to mean something positive, says PTSO President Debbie Balcer, who says the scholarship criteria will include a service project designed to combat drunken driving.
Its a fitting tribute - and a true testament to the strength of the friendships that Brandon Layton left behind.
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