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Salem senior wins Morgan scholarship, Brown honored for community service

Six community minded high school students and one community member who has demonstrated an extraodinary level of community service were honored Saturday night at the John K. Morgan Scholarship Awards ceremony. Shavontae Yoakum of Salem High School was named the winner of the largest scholarship of $4,000. The other five finalists received $500 scholarships. Former Probate Judge Lillis Brown was also honored for her community service with the F. William Hughey Community Service Award.

The Hughey award is presented annually to a person who has demonstrated outstanding community service in Rockdale County. Lillis is the former Probate Judge of Rockdale County serving in this capacity since 1993. In addition to her service as the Rockdale County Probate Judge for 19 years, she has been an active participant and volunteer in the community, including with organizations such as the Pilot Club, First Baptist of Conyers, Rockdale United Way, Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale and with state level judicial associations. A $500 cash donation will also be given to the local community service organization of the recipient’s choice.

The award namesake Bill Hughey was not able to attend the ceremony, but his daughter read a few words had written. "Community service, service to others is what gives life meaning," Hughey wrote. He described Brown as a person of great compassion, integrity, keen intellect, grace and dignity who has helped the lives of countless young children, seniors and adults.

"She is a person who is always places the well being of others over herself," he wrote.

Claire Cline of United Way said she had talked to many of Brown's colleagues and other Probate judges across the state. They all agreed that "Nobody works harder for her community than Lillis Brown."

Brown said he was honored by the award. "That is what i've always found so unique about Rockdale County. We're close knit here. We depend on each other and expect the best of each other."

Finalists for the 2013 John K. Morgan Scholarship were: Anna Barnes (Heritage High School), Kendra Jenkins (Salem High School), William Kulp (Heritage High School), Kate McCalley (Heritage High School), Dominique Steele (Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology) and Shavontae Yoakum (Salem High School). The students were selected based on interviews conducted by the John K. Morgan Scholarship Committee comprised of local business professionals and community service advocates.

“We were once again overwhelmed by the talent and commitment these students have shown throughout their careers by giving so much of their time and talents to help others in need,” said Director of Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families Michael Hutcheson.

Highlights of community service demonstrated by the six finalists include (in alphabetical order):

·     Anna Barnes volunteers with Special Olympics, raised over $25,000 for Rockdale Relay for Life and established her own community service organization, A Queen for a Claus, to help less fortunate families. She is the daughter of Julie Barnes.

·     Kendra Jenkins volunteers as a tutor for the “Game Plan” program to help student athletes at Salem High School and assists with caring for horses at a local ranch. She is the daughter of Michelle Jenkins.

·     William Kulp is active with outreach activities at First Baptist Church of Conyers, with feeding the homeless in Atlanta and volunteering as a coach for 2 and 9 year olds at Rockdale Youth Soccer Association. He is the son of Laura and Gordon Kulp.

·     Kate McCalley volunteers her time with Hometown Animal Rescue and other fundraisers through the Heritage High School National Honors Society. She is the daughter of Julie and Matt McCalley.

·     Dominique Steele serves as a volunteer nursery worker at Tabernacle Assemblies of God, a piano assistant at Love Divine Music Ministries and a student ambassador, tutor and teaching assistant at Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology. She is the daughter of Annette and Byron Steele.

·     Shavontae Yoakum is president of Salem High School’s Student Government Association and has coordinated canned food drives, a fundraiser for the family of Reba Glass, participated in neighborhood clean-ups through Rivers Alive and the Great American Cleanup. She wants to major in art history at Georgia State University. She is the daughter of Shawn and Angela Yoakum.