12/01/06 — Fourth-grader receives scholarship to Appalachian State

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Fourth-grader receives scholarship to Appalachian State

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 1, 2006 1:46 PM

Latifah Syeh, a fourth-grader at Grantham School, became the 14th minority student in Wayne County to be awarded a $20,000 scholarship to attend Appalachian State University upon graduation from high school.

Ceremonies were held at the school on Thursday announcing the honor, established by an anonymous donor in 1993 to help promote cultural diversity at the college while also benefiting Wayne and Craven county students.

The winner is chosen each year based on performance on achievement tests taken at the end of third grade. Recipients must meet Appalachian's admissions requirements and major in either math or science.

This was the first time an honoree came from Grantham School. Olivia Pierce, executive director for community relations with the school system, said since the scholarship program began, eight elementary schools in the county have had recipients -- four from Meadow Lane, three from Carver, two from School Street, and one each from Northeast, Northwest, Eastern Wayne, North Drive elementary schools and Brogden Primary.

The annual announcement usually comes earlier in the school year, Mrs. Pierce said, but math scores were not released by the state until recently, causing a delay to the process.

"We have all been anxiously waiting," she said. "It's a joy to participate each year in this event."

It is also an honor for the school system, said Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools.

"You're a fine example of what we want our students to be," he told Latifah. "When students look at you, they can say, 'This is what I want to be.'"

Encouraging her to keep up good study habits, he said, "listen to your teachers, listen to your parents. When you graduate from high school, the scholarship is paid for and the college is waiting for you."

Dr. Linda Robinson, associate vice chancellor for equity, diversity and compliance at Appalachian State, said the scholarship and college education will open up a lot of doors for the fourth grader in the future.

"Out of 1,497 (third grade students in the county), your math scores were at the top, so high that they enable you to get this scholarship," she said. "We want students like you at ASU. There's going to be a place there in 2015 for Latifah."

Renaldo Davis is already at Appalachian State. Now a sophomore majoring in applied math with a concentration in actuarial science, he received the scholarship in 1996 while a fourth-grader at School Street Elementary School.

"At the time I was excited, but I didn't really know what to expect," he said. Because the scholarship was made available, he said he made the decision early on to apply himself and go to college.

The first of the 14 recipients to take advantage of the scholarship, Renaldo said it was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.

"He said it made a difference because he had something to shoot for. He knew there was something there waiting for him," said Steve Hicks, president of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

Latifah said she wasn't sure how to absorb the news. As she sat enjoying cake and punch at the reception in her honor, joined by sister Lavonte Syeh, a second-grader, and cousin Iwin Britton, a third-grader, she just smiled and accepted all the accolades.