published Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Cleveland: Profiles of six outstanding high school students

Last month, I met with six outstanding high school seniors to discuss their experiences in Hamilton County’s halls of learning. The six are representative of many students who quietly go about the business of acquiring a superior education here.

  • Cordell Paruchuri graduates this month from Brainerd High School. He will attend Middle Tennessee State University to study music industry management. Cordell says his role models are his grandmother, Oda Woods, and his pastor and cousin, Timothy Careathers.

He rates his teachers highly.

“They are accessible, loyal to their students and authentic,” he said.

He said his football teammates — he’s a defensive back — are his second family. Cordell desires up-to-date computers and new text and library books for his school.

His advice for underclassmen is to begin thinking of college as freshmen.

  • Sam Johnson graduates this month from East Hamilton Middle High School. He will attend Virginia Tech University to study information systems. He said he liked the “feel” of the campus during a visit.

Sam said he values the diversity of electives and the joint enrollment courses offered through Chattanooga State Community College. He will earn 18 college credits this year.

  • Whitney Graham completes her Hixson High School career with plans to attend Hampton University. Her goal is a bachelor of science degree in nursing. In her school’s health-career track she has complete courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry and nursing. She took advanced-placement English courses during her final two years. Her parents have been her inspiration to succeed. She said Renee Parker, her health sciences teacher, is an ideal instructor who “is willing to help, to listen, to stay after school. Not everyone learns at the same pace.”

  • Jordan Butler at Lookout Valley Middle High School is a scholar-athlete. Jordan plays right-field on his school’s baseball team. He has spent seven years at his school.

Jordan admires his faculty. “They do whatever they can to help us,” he said. Jordan considers his father his role model for always working as hard as he can. From his earliest years, Jordan has delighted in helping his father and grandfather in construction projects. “I could read a tape measure before I could read a book,” he said. Jordan plans to enter the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the fall to study civil engineering. His advice for the school board is to maintain smaller schools.

  • Donnie Garner, Jr., is another scholar athlete. He has spent the past two years at Signal Mountain Middle High School. Each of his teachers has had a significant influence upon him, he said. He admires their love of their subjects and his school’s environment for learning.

Currently, he takes advance placement courses in biology and calculus. Donnie delights in writing poetry. Dr. Ben Carson, the famed neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is a role model to the career to which Donnie aspires. Donnie was a running back on his school’s state championship football team and was named MVP of the championship game. In the fall he will attend UT-Knoxville where he be a pre-med major. He plans to walk on the volunteer football team

Cheyne Hillery-Collier wraps up his high school career this month at Tyner Academy. His pastor, Bishop Shaun Teal, is a role model for Cheyne who will attend Lee University. He wants to become a minister. His senior year has been a challenge with classes in advance-placement English, science research and pre-calculus. He also serves as a teacher’s assistant. Away from class, he finds pleasure singing in his church, he said.

We focus a lot of media attention upon gifted athletes who sign to play in college. We should celebrate scholastic accomplishments with similar energy.

Contact Clif Cleaveland at cleaveland1000@comcast.net.

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