The Due West Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) celebrated its 60th anniversary and recognized 35 young women from Erskine College and area high schools March 6 at the 59th Annual Student Recognition Dinner in the Bell Conference Room of Watkins Student Center on the Erskine campus.
Dr. Faye Simpson Sprouse, Superintendent of Greenwood School District 51 and a 1984 summa cum laude graduate of Erskine College, spoke at the dinner, which has been held every year since 1959, the year following the formation of the Due West Branch of AAUW.
Recalling the good start she was given by a first-grade teacher who taught her to “fall in love with school,” Sprouse also praised mentors at Erskine College who helped her to succeed, including former Erskine administrator Genie McDill, a 1972 graduate of Erskine College who now teaches at Ware Shoals High School.
As she assembled her props, which included a picture frame and a sparkly drape placed on an easel, Sprouse joked that her audience would be able to tell that she had been an elementary school teacher.
“You were invited here tonight because you have great potential,” she told the students, and then outlined a recommended “framework” for living up to that potential. She brought out brightly colored letters as she spoke, spelling out “F.R.A.M.E.” and focusing on faith, relationships, attitude, mind, and energy.
“Faith drives out fear,” Sprouse said, urging the honorees to have faith in themselves and stating her own faith in God. “Step out in faith even if you are fearful.” She recalled that when she was offered the chance to move from principal of a school to superintendent of a school district, she thought of a line from the motivational fable Who Moved My Cheese by the late Spencer Johnson, M.D.: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” She took the new job.
Speaking about relationships, Sprouse told the students, “You need to know yourself before you can be available for relationships with others,” and noted that such relationships can result in helpful coaching and feedback from others.
Addressing the importance of attitude, she cited the first sentence of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: “It’s not about you.” She advocated “an attitude of gratitude” as well the sort of optimism in which challenges are seen as opportunities. “Figure out a way forward,” she said. “Never give up.”
Sprouse told the students, “Your mind is your greatest asset,” and stressed the significance of using their minds to unleash their potential. “Education is important,” she said.
Finally, “Life is about energy,” she said, drawing a connection between energy and enthusiasm. She encouraged the honorees to “Make a commitment to being happy” and “Look for good in people.”
Vice President for Student Success Dr. Wendi Santee welcomed guests on behalf of Erskine College and Erskine alumna Sarah Kennerly offered a blessing before the meal. Professor Emerita of Biology Dr. Janice Haldeman and Erskine alumna Genie McDill distributed award certificates to the honorees, with assistance from Erskine senior Kristin Richey, who received a scholarship from the Due West Branch of AAUW to attend the 2017 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL).
Erskine honorees and their subject areas were Megan Moore, athletic training; Hayden Banks, Bible; Rebecca Reiter, biology; Alysha Tabb, business administration; Daria Watkins, chemistry; Sara Guyton, early childhood education; Sara Beth Johnson, English; Brooke Johnson, history; Julie Butler, mathematics; Sarah Vermazen, music; Julie Butler, physics; Molly Graham, political science; Christina Coltrane, psychology; Kate Rodriguez, social studies; Raven Smith, special education; and Brittany Reynolds, sport management.
Abbeville High School seniors recognized were Amber Elise May Ballenger, English; Kamiya Cordae Shosan, foreign language; Cassie Lynne Burns, math; Savannah Lee Price, science; and Payton Alexis Busbee, social studies.
Calhoun Falls Charter School seniors honored were Victoria Hargrove, English; Deshanna Cade, foreign language; Zai Tiera Bell, math; Nai Kiera Bell, science; and Jayda Greene, social studies.
Dixie High School seniors receiving awards were Kerah M. Phillips, English; Anslee Brock, foreign language; Hanna N. Taylor, math; Samantha Brooks, science; and Anna D. Ellis, social studies.
Honorees from Ware Shoals High School were Anna Ruth Thomson, English; Kennedi Smith, foreign language; Hannah Howard, math; Amber Owens, science; and Jaqueline Gunter, social studies.