Nearly 400 Baton Rouge high school students gathered Saturday at the Louisiana State Museum downtown during the inaugural East Baton Rouge Academic Honors Day to receive community honors for their scholastic achievements.
The event, said by Mayor-President Kip Holden to be the first of its kind in the nation, is the brainchild of Judge Wilson Fields, of 19th Judicial District Court, and his Academic Honors Network.
Fields said he wanted to create an event in which outstanding students were recognized for their achievement in the classroom, along the same lines that outstanding athletes are honored at similar events.
Juniors and seniors with a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher were invited. All who attended were given a certificate and T-shirt. Eight lucky ones earned $500 scholarships from Wilson, Holden, East Baton Rouge Parish School Board members and people who simply just walked out of the crowd and said they wanted to award a $500 scholarship.
Lisa Vosper, of the Honors Network, said the original plan was to award only two $500 scholarships, but one after another, people kept coming out of the crowd until there were eight $500 scholarships to hand out. The scholarships were awarded via a raffle in which tickets were pulled out of a bucket and the student with the corresponding ticket won.
“That just shows the commitment that I think our Baton Rouge community has for education to say on the spot that ‘I want to give a youngster a scholarship to go to a Louisiana college,’ ” Fields said.
Representatives of nine universities in Louisiana — including LSU, Southern University, Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — attended to try and persuade some of the honors students and scholarship winners to visit their respective campuses.
Precious Ferry, 17, of Scotlandville Magnet High School, won one of the two scholarships that Fields awarded.
“I never won raffles or anything,” said Ferry, who plans to attend Southeastern in Hammond in the fall. “I’m glad this was my first win in a raffle; it means a lot to me.”
Ferry was supposed to work Saturday at Great American Cookies, but was given the day off from her job to attend Honors Day.
Two of her classmates from Scotlandville, Kierra Hollins and Akiya Brumfield, also won scholarships.
Brumfield’s mother, Mable Drewery Thomas, said she thought it was an honor for her daughter just to be invited to the event and prayed diligently throughout the scholarship raffle, hoping that her daughter would win.
“When they called my name, I told them I wasn’t prepared to win,” said Brumfield, who will begin taking classes at Southern University in the summer toward her criminal justice degree. “I’m happy that all my hard work paid off.”