COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Forks clinked and chatter filled the room as high school students from 26 public and private local schools, their parents and administrators waited in anticipation of the awards to come. They gathered at the Green Island Country Club and enjoyed lunch ahead of the Fred Kirby Awards ceremony hosted by the North Columbus Rotary Club, which began at 12 p.m. on April 25.  

The club recognized one male and one female senior from each school in attendance for having the highest SAT scores in their class. They also rewarded one of the 52 seniors with $1000 to use toward their education as a reward for winning the club’s essay competitions in which students detailed how their future goals aligned with the club’s mission and values.

After statements were made and awards given, President of the North Columbus Rotary Club Kia Chambers announced the essay contest winner, Zuri Harris of Kendrick High School.

“I was very surprised,” said Harris who added she was still trying not to cry. Harris plans to continue her education at Agnes Scott college and study to be an OBGYN. The student explained making a difference in the community, especially for black women, was important to her.

According to Chambers, the club has been doing the Fred Kirby awards for over a decade.

“We want to… let the students know that we are extremely proud of them, they are our future,” said Chambers after the group took a picture together on the steps of the country club to end the event.

Harris and others agreed it was special to be recognized for they work they put into their academics.

“I just worked really hard through high school, and I think kind of shows that, you know, the hard work pays off,” said Elizabeth Turner from St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School. Turner added she will be attending Georgia Tech in the fall.

Her school counsellor Kristin Turner (unrelated) remarked she was grateful to support the school’s student awardees, which also included Ben Oliver.

Anyah Johnson of William Henry Spencer High school was excited to attend the event after scoring a composite score of 1300 on her SAT.

“It’s great to be here because I’m representing my school,” said Johnson, who plans to study aeronautics in the fall at Eastern Michigan University.

Johnson’s mother Patrice Byrd was equally excited to join her daughter at the ceremony and said, “It means everything to me.”

During the event, students listened to remarks by Muscogee Schools Superintendent David Lewis, who recounted lessons which he had learned from his father, a brick mason, urging students to pay attention the reputations they will build.

“If you have a choice, choose a good reputation over silver and gold,” Lewis said after reminding students to pay attention to details, respect others and be wary of spreading themselves to thin.

Attendees were also able to hear about each awardee’s plan for college through a video compilation presented at the beginning of the ceremony.  

The Fred Kirby awards are named Fred W. Kirby, who was a rotary club member and educator.