Three students won the Ryan Clark Scholarship this year. The scholarship is in honor of a Lakeside High School student who died in the Virginia Tech shootings. (WRDW-TV / May 3, 2012)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, May 3, 2012
EVANS, Ga. -- Three high school seniors were recognized for their community service Thursday night.
They all received the Ryan Clark Scholarship, in memory of one of the first victims of the Virginia Tech shootings five years ago. This is the fourth year for the award and it's always a special night for Ryan's family.
Ryan's mom, Letitie Clark, said this scholarship is a way for her to keep her son and his memory alive.
Ryan was trying to help someone else when he was shot. Everyone who knew Ryan said that just shows the kind of person he was.
"They weren't surprised that when the tragedy occurred at Virginia Tech he was one of the first students to come to the assistance of others," said Dr. Steve Rhodes, principal of Lakeside High School.
It's a long way from the tragedy, but at Lakeside High School in Evans, Ryan's memory will always live on.
"Ryan was a fulfillment of our mission at Lakeside, which is to reach and to engage and to inspire the greatest potential in everyone," Rhodes said.
Four years ago Ryan's mom helped start the Ryan Clark Scholarship to award students for doing what Ryan loved -- community service.
"I know Ryan is smiling," his mother said. "He's all about giving back to his community and because he's helping someone still -- just because his presence isn't here physically, he is here in our hearts."
This year they were able to give out the $1,000 scholarship, plus two new $500 awards.
"When I see their faces and I see the faces of their parents saying this is a burden lifted -- the thousand dollars, $500 will help. I am overjoyed," she said.
So are the recipients.
"I'm actually trying not to cry right now, I'm really shocked," said Emily Chizmar, the $1,000 winner.
"I am so so honored to receive this scholarship," said Kendyl Pennington, who won $500.
For them, the scholarship is more than just money.
"When I talk to people who did know Ryan they say he was just one of the nicest people you ever met," Pennington said. "He would do anything. He would give you the clothes off his back to help a stranger, that he just lit up a room and that makes me feel really good."
Letitie says she's proud these are the students that will be carrying on Ryan's memory.
"You hear all the time that our young people are not doing this or not doing that," she said. "They forgot to come to the CSRA. These children are amazing."
The students have worked with organizations all over our community from Relay for Life to the food bank to UNICEF and so many more. They really are making a huge difference in this community.