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Chris Catoe is in his first year at Buford Middle School and says he was nervous about starting school in a new place.
He had to deal with the prospect of bullies, while trying to make friends and concentrate on his work.
But since the start of school, the sixth-grader has excelled academically. He now speaks highly of his middle school experience.
“It was scary the first few days, but it’s good now,” Catoe said.
Normally, Catoe wouldn’t receive an award for this, but Thursday’s event at Bundy Auditorium at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster was different.
Catoe was one of many Lancaster County School District students honored at the fourth-annual Principals’ Choice Awards sponsored by the county’s three Rotary clubs.
The awards honor students who have strong character and good behavior, but don’t necessarily make the top grades in their class.
Each of the district’s elementary, middle and high school principals picked three students for the honor.
Organizer Bobby Bailey said the event involves parents and students who may have never received recognition before in front of an audience.
“It’s a good-feeling program,” Bailey said. “It builds their self-esteem and makes them better.”
Many of Thursday’s winners, such as Katy Coley, have overcome obstacles to get to where they are today.
Coley, a senior at Indian Land High School, was diagnosed with lupus when she was 12. She has continued to battle sickness and fatigue and is now on track to graduate this year.
ILHS Principal Kathy Faris spoke highly of Coley’s perseverance.
“She is so important to all of us,” Faris said of Coley. “We take for granted our health. If she can do it, anybody can do it.”
In between the program, the audience was treated to performances by elementary school chorus students, middle school theater students and high school and middle school dance students.
All of the winners received a certificate and were given a reception after the awards presentation in the Bradley Building multipurpose room.
Bailey said state-level Rotarians are looking to implement the same program in other areas throughout South Carolina.
Principals’ Choice Award winners
- A.R. Rucker Middle: JaQuarius Brice, Erin Byrd, Antione Kirkland
- Andrew Jackson High: Katie Truesdale, Nico Perry, Ja´Nice Drakeford
- Andrew Jackson Middle: Courtney Alease Criminger, Magen Leigh Bush, Tavish Stephen Bennett
- Brooklyn Springs Elementary: Mykeyya JaNiya Evans, Sierra Maria Garcia, Blaise Johnson
- Buford Elementary: Erik Blackmon, Taylor Faith Loughry, Benji Lee Black Jr.
- Buford High: Christopher Robert Clanton, Tiffany Michelle Stinson, John Wayne Roberts
- Buford Middle: Christopher C. Catone, Madison Hope Jewett, Anna Kate Sims
- Clinton Elementary: Tia Cox, Felix Chavez, Casey Hegler
- Discovery School: Julia Lesho, Alex Jones, Ryleigh Waiters
- Erwin Elementary: Meyah Miller, Charlie Thompson, Alex Ward
- Heath Springs Elementary: Arviyance Cooks, Monterion Blackmon, Rachel McKinney
- Indian Land Elementary: Quantra Taylor, Cricket Borrero, Teddy Yarborough
- Indian Land High: Katy Coley, Rodney Edwards, Tia Johnson
- Indian Land Middle: Latrelle Davis, Hannah McGinn, Rachel Tavarez
- Kershaw Elementary: Summer Railey, Sierra Johnson, Codie Catoe
- Lancaster High: Angel De Jesus Perez Rodriguez, Callen Frances Bethea, Laurice Dominick Ingram
- McDonald Green Elementary: Dante Mackey, Alyssa Mobley, Drew Warner
- North Elementary: Remington Totten, Sydney Ribelin, Amber Wade
- South Middle: Tiffany Whitesides, Randall Ames, J´Quone Foster
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at email@example.com or at (803) 283-1152