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Youth achievement awards handed out

Before he turned his life around, Melvin Porter admits, he was a troublemaker.

“I was always getting into fights,” the John F. Kennedy Middle School seventh-grader said. “I just didn’t listen to anybody.”

However, thanks to the inspiration of his parents and his little brother, Porter stopped making trouble and started paying more attention in school. Not only did he get himself out of a discipline-oriented school program and back into the regular classroom, but also he is now on the honor roll.

“Over the past year, the light of this rising star has become very bright,” said Randolph Boone, coordinator of pupil personnel at Suffolk Public Schools. “He also hopes to mentor other young folks who have faced similar challenges.”

Because of his efforts, Melvin received the Rising Star award at the first-ever Youth Achievement Awards held Saturday. The awards are part of a citywide strategy to celebrate positive accomplishments by young people, said Suffolk Parks and Recreation Director Lakita Frazier.

“We feel this gives an opportunity to highlight the positive things young people are doing,” Frazier said. “We wanted to highlight some of the young people that are not getting in trouble.”

Nine young people and one group were honored at Saturday’s luncheon. Nominations for the awards were scored on various aspects such as letters of recommendation, essays and more.

In the area of athletics, a middle and high schooler were chosen. Kara Dixon, an eighth-grader at John Yeates Middle School, played volleyball, basketball and soccer on high school junior varsity squads. Ivery Knight, who presented the award, said Kara had missed only one practice in all three seasons and never missed a game.

Kenny Rice, a senior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, was honored for his achievement in track and field, football and basketball. He received the varsity coaches’ leadership award at NSA, and was a long jump champion this year. He plans to attend Morehouse College and major in political science.

Amanda Hamm, a Forest Glen Middle School eighth-grader, received the award for outstanding performance in the arts. She sat first chair clarinet in Suffolk’s all-city band, and has sat second chair clarinet in the Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra since September 2009. She also plays the piano, is a top academic student, and serves on the Suffolk Youth Advisory Council. She also is involved in Girl Scouts, and hopes to become a teacher of either band or general music. She has a special love of the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Michaela Twitty, a Forest Glen Middle School eighth-grader, was recognized for her community service. She has put more than 60 hours into the community through the Suffolk Family YMCA and fundraisers for March of Dimes and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She also participates in the Junior Beta Club, Girls Can Too and the Violence Prevention Club.

In the leadership category, two middle schoolers and two high schoolers received awards. Melissa Lewis and Meagan Whitfield, both of Forest Glen Middle School, were recognized. Melissa, an eighth-grader, is an outstanding student and athlete, and serves as a Girl Scout. She hopes to become a politician one day.

Meagan, a seventh-grader, holds a number of leadership positions, including entrepreneur of her own event planning and catering company. She also is active in her school and in church. Her future goals include opening an animal hospital and saving the Earth’s habitats.

Brittany Holland and Benjamin Corbett, both of Lakeland High School, also were recognized for leadership.

“She is an accomplished student and a dedicated mediator,” presenter Ross Boone said of Brittany. “She cares so much about helping people. Her leadership at such a young and tender age is something that’s remarkable.”

Brittany, a freshman, also was on homecoming court this year, and was a junior varsity cheerleader.

Benjamin, a senior, is a graduate of the Sorenson Institute for Political Leadership, and serves as the director of the anchor club. He will graduate fourth in his class, and is a member of the tennis and academic teams. He will finish high school with 18 college credits.

“He is truly a personification of what you would be looking for,” Boone said.

Lastly, the group citizenship award was given to the Men of Distinction of Lakeland High School. The 14 young men have been role models in their own school and have helped mentor students at Kilby Shores Elementary School.

“They definitely have played a positive role in our students at Kilby Shores,” assistant principal Shante Cuffee said. “What you have done for our students at Kilby Shores is outstanding.”

For more information on the achievement awards, call 514-7250.