10/28/09 — North Drive student earns $20,000 ASU scholarship

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North Drive student earns $20,000 ASU scholarship

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 28, 2009 1:46 PM

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Dr. Anthony Calamai, left, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian State University, presents North Drive Elementary fourth-grader Alize Wright with a $20,000 scholarship to the university.

Alize Wright arrived at school more reserved than usual on Tuesday, her principal at North Drive Elementary School, Carol Artis, said.

The fourth-grader might have appeared to be quiet and shy, but on the inside she was preparing to give an acceptance speech for the college scholarship she was about to receive.

During a reception at the school in her honor, she was recognized for being the county's top scorer on last spring's end-of-grade math test. For that, she was awarded a $20,000 scholarship to attend Appalachian State University.

"She has been with us since kindergarten, and we have all raised her and taken her under our wing in some ways," Mrs. Artis said.

It's been quite a journey for the 9-year-old, she explained, calling Alize their "surrogate daughter" at the school.

But as challenging as it might have been along the way, she noted, "It has never been without purpose and without determination from her and the staff members here and her family. We have all worked together to get her where she is. ... We made sure that Alize stayed here at North Drive under our protective care. Because of that, she has done well."

The principal recalled watching Alize make her way through the end-of-grade test, meticulously working each problem to come up with the answers. Afterwards, Mrs. Artis said she commented to a staffer, "I don't think she missed one."

"She was determined," Mrs. Artis told the audience. "She is a wonderful little girl, sweet and kind and good. But more than anything, she's very smart."

Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, said the fourth-grader exemplifies what the district tries to instill in all its students -- working hard, keeping up good grades, being what teachers expect in the classroom.

"To know in the third grade, starting in the fourth grade, that you're going to have a scholarship when it comes time to go to college" is unique, he said. "This is a tough economic time and there are lots of kids out there who planned to go to college and had to change their plans."

Taylor also commended the anonymous donor who established the annual scholarship in 1993 to help facilitate cultural diversity at Appalachian while also benefiting students from Craven and Wayne counties. This is the 17th year for the award in Wayne County, he added.

Alize is the sixth female recipient since the scholarship began, the second from North Drive, said Olivia Pierce, executive director, community relations for Wayne County Public Schools.

Dr. Ed Wilson, educational committee chairman, congratulated Alize on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.

"This is a wonderful thing that someone can do for students in our community," he said of the donor, then directed his comments to Alize. "Young lady, you're going to be a role model because of your persistence, hard work and extra effort to be a successful student."

Dr. Anthony Calamai, dean of ASU College of Arts and Sciences, presented her with a plaque, and later with a gift bag of ASU apparel.

As Alize took to the podium to deliver her speech, she paid tribute to her "strongest supporter," mom Comeco Wright, who encouraged her to never give up.

Ms. Wright, who also has two older children, had her own list of people to thank.

"I would like to thank God, without whom none of this would be possible," she began, before rattling off a list that included her family and the staff at the school.

"I just don't know where I would be with Alize (without them)," she said. "She's a smart little girl. I don't know what I'm going to do next year when she goes to fifth grade.

"She's a hard worker. I just don't know how I would do it without North Drive School. They need to give y'all a certificate, too."

Two former ASU scholarship recipients also attended the festivities. Sierra Howell, honored in 2002-03, and Akela Sheard, from 2003-04, are now classmates at Wayne School Engineering. Sierra is a junior; Akela is a sophomore.

The occasion brought back memories for the girls, especially Sierra, a former North Drive student.

"It happened right here in the same place," she said.

Akela attended Brogden Primary when she was awarded the scholarship.

Both, friends since learning of their shared honor, still have their sights set on ASU.

"I'm going to be a pediatrician," Akela said.

"I'm not sure (of a major) but I want to work with computers," Sierra said.

As for the latest honoree, Alize took in all the praise and support before going up to partake of a cake decorated with her name on it.

"I'm happy 'cause I did all this in my school and the school staff helped me through all these years and I got a scholarship to Ap-palachian State," she said.