Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Elle Perry (Teen Appeal Coordinator)
Thirty Whitehaven High School seniors, each receiving at least $1 million dollars in scholarship offers, declared their college choice in the school’s auditorium which was packed with students, dignitaries, parents and community members.
The school’s principal, Dr. Vincent Hunter, held Whitehaven’s inaugural Academic Signing Day to recognize the students on the morning of April 15.
The event was modeled after National Athletic Signing Day in which scholarship athletes sign a letter of intent announcing to the world the college that they have chosen. Some of the students at Whitehaven mimicked the athletic signing day by donning a college cap to announce their choice or by holding up two college pennants to indicate which college they chose from their final picks.
Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Jr. recalled the celebration and treatment of Whitehaven football players when the school won the state championship back in 2012.
“Let’s do the same for our academic students,” he said. “They are winners of the game of life.”
Wooddale High School media concepts instructor and iconic Memphis radio personality Stan Bell served as master of ceremony for the events.
“Accomplishment is getting something done,” Bell said to the group. “Achievement is getting something done right. This is an achievement.”
Other guests included Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell Jr., Peer Power founder Charlie McVean, Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson Jr., SCS Chief of Staff Reginald Porter Jr. and area Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins, among others. (Both Hunter and Hopson are Whitehaven High School alumni.)
Students went in order from least to most scholarship offers, with the last student receiving over $4 million. Colleges selected included the University of Memphis, Christian Brothers University, University of Tennessee at Martin, University of Tennessee, Tennessee State University, Austin Peay State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Fisk University, Alcorn State University, Wake Forest University, University of Indianapolis, University of Kentucky, Pratt Occidental College, Xavier University, Maryville College, and Birmingham Southern College.
Whitehaven’s Class of 2015 contains 437 students in total.
Hunter also recognized the school’s “Fortune 500” during the assembly. Those students have each earned at least $100,000 in scholarship offers.
“These young people have options and opportunities,” Hunter said. “There’s still value in inner city public education.”
Hunter praised the students and their parents, as well as teachers and administration. He implored the students to continue to make good decisions in their lives after graduating.
“This is the data set you should use when judging Memphis youth,” Hunter said. “They’re going to make a difference in Memphis if we can convince them to stay.”