MHS Assistant Principal Nakena Bayless, Young Texanne Kayla Vanderburg, Young Texan Davion Williams and MHS Senior Counselor Suzan Harrison attended the recent Optimists Club meeting.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met Wednesday, Dec. 11, in Hutchins Hall of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Marshall. President Le Ila Dixon convened with the ringing of the bell and Optimist Janie Moore led in prayer followed by the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag and the recitation of the Optimist’s creed.

Optimist Le Ila welcomed all, especially Kayla Vanderburg and Davion Williams, their families, and the facilitators for the Young Texans Program, MISD Senior Counselor Suzan Harrison and MISD Assistant Principal Nakena Bayless. This program recognizes outstanding MHS seniors each month. At the end of the year six $500 grants will be awarded to three young women and three young men selected at random.

Optimist Julie Brock presented Kayla Vanderburg as the Young Texanne for December. Kayla’s favorite subject is math and her favorite teachers are Bobby Carson and Jeff Ford. Her grade point average is 5.23 and she participates in the National Honor Society and the Interact Club. Some of her hobbies include watching movies with her family and running. In fact, she is a cross country runner who is considering taking up powerlifting.

“One accomplishment I am really proud of is winning Best Witness during a mock trial at Stanford University,”she said. Kayla spent about a week there last year and learned a lot about law and its future uses in her life. All participated in a mock trial as judge, attorneys, jurors and witnesses. At the end of the trial, participants were voted by their peers as the “best” in various categories. That is when she was voted the “best witness.”

“I’m not sure where I want to go to college, but I know that I want to go on to law school and I lean toward the idea of having my own practice,” she said. President Le Ila advised Kayla that her recognition by the Optimist Club automatically qualified her for a scholarship at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall.

Her personal message to her parents, Trey and Amanda Vanderburg, was “thank you for always being there for me when I need you. You have always supported me in everything I do. Thank you for always being willing to help me and encouraging me to do my best, without you I wouldn’t have turned out to be who I am today.”

Optimist Julie Brock then presented Davion Williams as the Young Texan for December. Davion’s favorite subjects are biology and choir and his favorite teachers are Jean Hurd, Amanda Skinner, and Skylyn Potts. His grade point average is 4.83 and he is engaged in numerous extra-curricular activities including choir, Air Force Junior ROTC, the National Honor Society where he is the vice president, the Student Council, and Policy Debate, a special division of debate at MHS.

Davion also participates in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination).

Optimist Richard Magrill asked about the AVID program and Suzan Harrison explained that Davion’s is only the third group of seniors to have participated.

“The program starts in the 7th and 8th grades with students who will be first generation college students and it helps them learn new and different ways to study,” she said. “In fact, a good portion of the top 10 percent of graduates come out of the AVID program.”

Nakena Bayliss noted that the program takes participants on field trips including visits to colleges, giving them new experiences that can make their future college life easier. “The MHS staff supports AVID 100% and I never have any worries about our AVID participants adjusting to college life,” she said.

Several Optimists asked about Davion’s WE Day Community Service Grant. “WE’ is big with the AVID community; it pushes the idea of giving back to the community,” Suzan Harrison said.

Davion is a member of Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church where he serves as youth president. He enjoys singing in the MHS Chorale. At this year’s FireAnt Festival, he was chosen as a representative of MHS which put him in the running for a scholarship along with seniors from other county ISDs. He won the scholarship. In District debate competition, he placed 2nd. In addition, he participated in a Future Doctors Medical Conference held at Harvard University. That event led him to become a member of the Torch and Laurel Society which is a national community service organization.

“The trip to Harvard provided Davion with the chance to become involved in QuestBridge which is an organization that matches its members with national schools who provide automatic entrance,” Harrison said.

Davion is a crew member at McDonald’s. He plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 2020, majoring in biology and minoring in social sciences. His personal message to his parents, David and Tasha Williams, was “even though at times I don’t always vocalize my gratitude, nothing that I do or have done can be achieved without your guidance. Thank you for shaping me into the young man that I am today. I love you!”

As the meeting concluded, Optimist Julie presented pots of white poinsettias to the mothers of the honorees