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Student achievers earn praise

The future depends on good decisions, speakers told students honored by the Afro-American Club.

[Times photo: Brian Tietz]
Karen Smith of Citrus Springs Middle School receives a special ethics award from Mary-Ann and Arnold Virgilio during a ceremony Saturday.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001


LECANTO -- The Afro-American Club of Citrus County paid tribute to its most precious resource -- students who are doing well in school -- at its fifth annual awards program Saturday at Curtis Peterson Auditorium.

Several speakers told the students to keep making the right choices as they strive to fulfill their destinies.

Marvin Davies, chief executive officer of the African-American Action Alliance of St. Petersburg and a former NAACP field director, told the audience how he overcame obstacles to reach his goal in life.

Davies was raised in poverty and illiteracy in North Florida.

"I learned how to make people say 'yes' ", he said. "If you study and learn enough words and blend them with a positive attitude, you can get a lot of 'yeses' ", he said.

Before certificates of appreciation were handed out to approximately 140 students, several other local dignitaries spoke, telling the students how proud they made them feel. Among the speakers were school Superintendent David Hickey and Sheriff Jeff Dawsy.

The theme of the event was "If you can dream it, you can achieve it", and the speakers were there to tell the young people they believed in the message.

"It's all about decisions," Dawsy told the audience. "For young people, the future is in front of you. And it's all about decisions."

Dawsy told the audience about a gang-related drive-by shooting death several years ago. He said the driver of one car, who is now in prison,was a decent young boy who made some very bad decisions that led to the tragic consequences.

"After he confessed, he asked me if he could go home because he had school the next day," Dawsy said. "He hasn't been home or at school for a long time because of his decisions."

Davies, the keynote speaker, asked the audience to gather near the stage before he began speaking.

"I like to have you close. You're going to learn something today," he said.

Davies spoke in a folksy manner about his childhood near Starke. He had no shoes. No one in his family could read. But he persuaded his mother to allow him to learn how to read at the age of four.

"That's when I realized I had a greater power," he said. "I learned every word in a 25,000 word dictionary. That's how I fulfilled my destiny.

"You're the future of the world," he said. "Because the Internet now runs the world, your thoughts here in Lecanto can be around the world in two seconds. So your ideas are very important."

In addition to the numerous certificates of appreciation handed out, one special ethics award was presented to Karen Smith, a sixth-grader at Citrus Springs Middle School. Smith was chosen for her positive attitude, community involvement and leadership abilities.

The Afro-American Club awards program also featured gospel music from the Inspirational Choir of the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church of Crystal River.

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