Students honored for tenacity
LAFAYETTE — Despite the early hour during his spring break, 6-year-old Hunter Collins did not hesitate when asked if he knew why he was being honored by Cox Communications on Wednesday morning.
“Because special people get to come here,” the Cecilia Primary School first-grader said. “Everyone here is special.”
Collins was among 40 students from Acadia, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Mary, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes recognized during the second annual Cox Inspirational Heroes Awards ceremony at the River Oaks reception center.
It highlights Acadiana area students ages 5 to 18 who inspire others for their perseverance and success amid personal challenges, such as the loss of a parent, or health conditions, such as cancer.
“We know that each of today’s heroes have overcome obstacles,” said Jacqueline Vines, senior vice president and general manager of Cox Louisiana.
Vines said the event is a celebration of the students’ accomplishments and also credited the teachers, guidance counselors, parents and caretakers for their motivation and support of each of the students.
“God provides special people with special children,” she said.
Hunter, who was born with cerebral palsy and uses a walker, made lots of new friends Wednesday.
“He’s like a magnet,” Cecilia Primary Principal Wanda Guidry said.
The principal and student play “Wheel of Fortune” — or Hunter’s version of it.
The boy calls out a letter and the principal searches for it on his student ID.
They played it at the breakfast and Guidry successfully found the letter “C” on his name tag for the event.
“You win a sports car!” Hunter told her.
Guidry said Hunter sometimes tells her with the same excitement, “You win nothing!”
The boy’s enthusiasm and love of learning and people brighten the school, she said.
Jalon Compton, a fifth-grader at Live Oak Elementary in Carencro, shares his love of computers with his classmates. Jalon is autistic and also has mild cerebral palsy.
“He loves computers and writing stories about sports,” said his mom, Melissa Compton.
Jalon types notes of the teachers’ lessons and shares them with the class via the classroom’s media board, his mother said.
Jalon taught himself how to type and his fingers glide over the keys quickly, said his father, Marcus Compton.
“It amazes everyone in the class … It amazes us,” his dad said.
After the students were honored, Vines shared her personal experiences growing up in foster care and about the couple who became her parents and helped her finish high school at 17.
Four years ago, the Baton Rouge resident adopted three foster children — biological sisters.
After sharing her story, Vines presented Elijah Evans, an eighth-grader at Youngsville Middle, with a $1,000 check in recognition of his work raising money to provide 72 local foster children with a Christmas party and gifts from their wish lists.
Evans, a survivor of child abuse, raised $5,000 for his project and shared his story of abuse to spread hope to other victims and other foster care children, Vines said.
“Thank you for everything you do,” Vines told Evans. “It’s all about hope, isn’t it?”
At 3, Evans was placed in foster care after his biological mother put him in a tub of scalding water.
Evans lost his toes and suffered severe burns on the lower part of his body.
He continues to undergo surgeries, said Evans’ mother, Lynore Harding, his former nurse who adopted him when he was 4.
The financial support of her son’s mission left the mother speechless.
“It’s just so amazing how the community has supported him,” Harding said.
Evans is moving his mission forward, having started a nonprofit organization, NUFA, which stands for “No Use for Abuse.”
Evans said he wants to continue sharing his story with others.
“I want them to remember that no matter where they go or what happens, there is hope,” he said.