The Due West Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) honored young women from Erskine College and area high schools March 26 at the 60th Annual Student Recognition Dinner in the Founders Room of Moffatt Dining Hall on the Erskine campus.
Joyce Cunningham, an adjunct faculty member in the education department at Erskine College, served as guest speaker for the event, which has been held every year since 1959, the year following the formation of the Due West Branch of AAUW.
Outlining some aspects of her early life, Cunningham said she came from a single-parent home, her father having died three months before her birth, and was born into poverty. The first school she attended was racially segregated. She went on to graduate from high school as well as from college, earning certification in elementary and special education. She later completed a master’s degree and earned national board certification in exceptional needs education.
Her successful career in education has included service as a teacher in the classroom and as special services coordinator for the Abbeville County School District. She currently serves as IEP facilitator for the state. She is an officer at Springfield Baptist Church and the Due West Lions Club, and is slated to become president of the Lions Club next year. Married to Amos Cunningham, she is a mother of two and grandmother of one.
Cunningham gives credit to God and her family for her accomplishments, recalling that if she made a ‘B’ in school, her mother would encourage her to try for an ‘A’ next time. She told students to keep G.O.A.L. in mind, with each letter standing for an important element in the achievement of their goals.
She urged students to put God first, saying, “With God and your hard work, all things are possible,” and told them never to allow opportunity to pass by. “When opportunity knocks, you must open the door!” she said.
She went on to stress the significance of attitude, noting that “A pleasant and respectful attitude” is a key ingredient of success.
Finally, she encouraged students to engage in lifelong learning, reading God’s word and keeping abreast of current events. “Never grow tired of learning!” she said.
Beth Gustafson, wife of Erskine President Dr. Robert Gustafson, welcomed honorees and other guests on behalf of Erskine College, and AAUW member Betsy Elsner offered a blessing before the meal. Dr. Janice Haldeman, president of the Due West branch, and Erskine alumna Genie McDill distributed award certificates to the honorees.
“We congratulate you for using the blessings you have received,” Haldeman told the students.
Erskine honorees and their subject areas were Emily Peak, athletic training; Hayden Banks, Bible and religion; Andrea O’Malley, biology; Kate Deak, business administration; Peggy Skerratt, chemistry; Laura Middleton, elementary education; Elizabeth Bishop and Sara Beth Johnson, English; Hope Crenshaw, history; Xen E. McCoy, mathematics; Amanda Stevenson, political science; Saige Stermin and Halley Ham, psychology; Sara Beth Johnson, secondary education; Shelby Holliday, special education; and Sara Dooley, sport management.
Abbeville High School seniors recognized were Micalyn Jetti Burdette, English; Hana Grace Lewis, foreign language; Savannah Marie Overholt, math; Mary Campbell Price, science; and Daleshia Shedasia Moss and Emily Abigail Mitchum, social studies.
Calhoun Falls Charter School seniors honored were Olivia Rodriguez, English; Rebecca Fleming, foreign language; Anna Grace Rhodes, math; Cayla Smith, science; and Gracie Taylor, social studies.
Dixie High School seniors receiving awards were Katherine Wieter, English; Brantly Murphy, foreign language; Linsey Sykes, math; Savannah Patrick, science; and Isabelle Stichnoth, social studies.
Ware Shoals High School seniors honored were Charla Taylor, English; Emily McQuerry, foreign language; Brandy Rodriguez, math; Kensley Lothridge, science; and Jaliyah Gambrell, social studies.