01/12/12 — Fourth-grader earns top score and $20,000 college scholarship

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Fourth-grader earns top score and $20,000 college scholarship

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 12, 2012 1:46 PM

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DeQuan Jefferson, a fourth-grader at North Drive Elementary School, smiles after reading a letter from Appalachian State University after being presented a $20,000 scholarship to the school for being the highest scorer on the end-of-grade math test for Wayne County Public Schools. This is the 19th year for the award, funded by an anonymous donor.

DeQuan Jefferson was so nervous Tuesday morning, he was afraid he would "bust out laughing" when his name was called.

Instead, the 10-year-old beneficiary of a $20,000 scholarship to Appalachian State University maintained a broad smile on his face as the accolades came.

"Our star today is DeQuan," said Dr. Steve Taylor, superintendent of schools. "He's the one who has done the work."

This is the 19th year for the scholarship, awarded to the fourth-grade student who scored the highest on the end-of-grade math test for Wayne County Public Schools. It was established in 1993 by an anonymous donor to develop cultural diversity at ASU, targeting recipients from Wayne and Craven counties.

DeQuan, a fourth-grader at North Drive Elementary School, is the third student from the school to receive the recognition.

Math is his favorite subject, he said, especially fractions. That will come in handy if he pursues his career interests of becoming a dentist or eye doctor one day.

The "sort of shy" student seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the attention.

"It's a surprise and, like, how many people," he said. "I wasn't expecting this many people. I was expecting the principal and my family."

Those attending the reception included representatives from the school board, Goldsboro City Council and central office staff.

"It could not have happened to a finer young man," his principal, Carol Artis, said. "He's smart, he's nice, he's well-behaved and he's always smiling.

"He's just a delight to educate, and his family has been most supportive of everything we do here at North Drive."

Eleven members of his family turned out for the presentation, including grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

And his proud dad, Quantellus Jefferson.

"It's a great opportunity for my son," he said. "I'm glad he's achieved it. It's a good feeling."

Like DeQuan, Jefferson said math had also been his favorite subject in school.

"I was good in math, but I don't think I was that good," he said with a smile.

Grandmother Gwen Jefferson said she was surprised to learn of the scholarship, but not that her grandson had done so well on the math test.

"He's always been a good student," she said. "He's always on the principal's list anyway. He's really awesome."

She and his other grandmother, Sylvia Stevens, often help care for DeQuan while his single-parent dad juggles two jobs.

Most days, she said, she doesn't even have to say too much about school assignments.

"I'll ask about his homework, and he's already done it," she said.

Criteria for the annual scholarship is based on performance on the spring achievement test taken at the end of third grade. The $20,000 is divided over four years at the university.

Recipients must meet ASU's admissions requirements and major in either math or science. The award is renewable if the student maintains at least a 2.5 grade point average.

Of the previous recipients, two are currently at ASU, officials said. Savalius Swain, who was presented the scholarship at School Street Elementary School in 2001-02 and went on to graduate from Goldsboro High School, is now a sophomore in college. Sierra Howell was the first North Drive student to receive the scholarship, in 2002-03. She graduated from Wayne School of Engineering and is now a freshman at ASU.