02/13/12 — Students honored for beating obstacles

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Students honored for beating obstacles

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 13, 2012 1:46 PM

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The Wayne County School Counselors Association recognized five students this past week for overcoming obstacles and thriving in school. From left are Kiana Lee of Tommy's Road Elementary School; Jaylen Graham of Brogden Primary; Daniel Hartley of Rosewood Middle; Devonte Moses (front) of North Drive Elementary; Ryan Olson of Charles B. Aycock High; and Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent.

Six-year-old Devonte Moses is a typical boy, who likes running and playing on the floor with his cars and trucks.

He has also had more than his share of health obstacles since birth -- among them being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and heart complications brought on by chemo treatments. At age 3, he required a heart transplant.

Currently in remission for cancer, he still takes medication several times a day.

And yet, to look at the wiry young man, his face belies any of his troubles.

"He walks around with a smile 24/7," said Charlenna Bennett Carter, curriculum facilitator at North Drive Elementary, where Devonte is a kindergartner. "He's the happiest student. That's what we can tag him, the happiest student at North Drive."

He and four other students were recognized Thursday by Wayne County School Counselors Association for overcoming obstacles to thrive in school.

Jaylen Graham, a 9-year-old student at Brogden Primary School, has had vision problems since first grade. A surgery to correct the left eye problem left him with limited vision and later after an emergency surgery when it spread to the right eye, he was blind in both eyes for nearly two weeks.

"He was determined to go to school and lead a normal life," said his school's counselor, Troy Harris.

Jaylen has endured 10 surgeries and requires special glasses.

But his attitude has not been impaired.

"His mom says his favorite saying is, 'Mama, there's always someone going through something worse than you, so you have to make the best out of what God's given you,'" Harris said.

Carolyn Byers, counselor at Tommy's Road Elementary, recognizedKiana Lee, a formerly shy and reserved 10-year-old student at the school.

She lagged behind her peers in speech development, Ms. Byers said, but today is a very fluent and verbal young lady who expresses herself well.

"The summer before fifth grade, Kiana had major back surgery for scoliosis," she added, which resulted in a 15-day hospitalization and the need to wear a back brace for a time.

"But she carried herself with poise and grace," Ms. Byers said. "She's got the determination, the dedication, the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve. She's a lovely young lady. She's full of grace."

Middle school recipient of the award was Daniel Hartley, a seventh-grader at Rosewood Middle School.

Counselor Angie Rains called the diehard Duke fan a sweet and caring young man. His grandfather, she shared, gave Daniel and a cousin two acres of farmland, where they planted cantaloupes and watermelon. The duo harvested and formed a business selling the produce.

Gardening was an interest he had shared with his father, who battled prostate cancer and died from a massive heart attack this past summer.

"(Daniel's) hard work and perseverance and love of family enabled him to become one of the top students at Rosewood Middle," Mrs. Rains said.

"I never met a finer young man than this young man right here," echoes his principal, Kevin Smith. "He brightens your day, always has a smile on his face."

Ryan Olson has not let Asperger's slow him down, says Crystal Casey, one of his teachers at Charles B. Aycock High School.

The senior has a strong interest in computers. He has earned a Microsoft certification and aspires to work in the field of information technology, she said.

"Ryan is certainly an inspiration to all of us at school," said his principal, Dr. Earl Moore. "He just wants to do what he's there to do and that's to receive a quality education."

CBA counselor Yvonne Mills was named this year's counselor of the year for the district.

Colleen Hennessy, a counselor at Eastern Wayne High School and president of the counselors association, was also honored by her counterparts, as she departs the district to take a position in her home state of New York.