Elizabeth Howard Scholarship Banquet honors 7 graduates

Students L to R: Jabari Dennard, Marissa Stubbs, Brianna Walker, Hanna Andrews, Alexis Cooper and Andre Winn


ST. PETERSBURG – Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church paid tribute to seven high school graduates last Saturday, May 27 inside of the church’s festively decorated Fellowship Hall.

This year’s Elizabeth Howard Scholarship honorees were Jabari Dennard (Gibbs), Marissa Stubbs (Boca Ciega), Brianna Walker (Lakewood), Hannah Andrews (Boca Ciega), Alexis Cooper (Boca Ciega), Andre Winn (Lakewood) and I’Quez Ramsey (Gibbs).

Keynote speaker Rev. Theodore Andrews III encouraged the college-bound students to take life one day at a time and enjoy every minute of the experience, the good as well as the bad.

“He’ll (God) leave the door open just long enough, yet he’ll close it just in time to keep away what is not meant for you…When life sits on your chest like a thousand-pound gorilla, remember God loves you,” he said. “God is real!”

Each honored guest shared individual reflections about the last four years and their hopes for the future.

Jabari said that one of the challenges he dealt with when he first started attending Gibbs was peer pressure.

“Just praying to God,” explained Jabari, was his way of getting over the hurdle that many students face in their first years of high school.

Having a good teacher or two to confide in played an essential role in each of the graduate’s success in completing school.

“Mrs. Thurman-Reeves (language arts) and Mrs. Teena Huffaker (math), they were very motivational and believed and helped all their students,” he said.

Jabari plans to attend Full Sail University to study filmmaking. His future goal is to shoot a film about St. Pete.

“Some challenges I faced was just believing in myself,” said Marissa.

Some self-reflection eventually helped her to overcome her challenge.

“I knew that God had made me for a purpose and that he doesn’t make any mistakes. Every day that I woke up, I looked in the mirror and I knew that I was here for some reason.”

Stubbs will attend Florida A&M University and major in mass communications and journalism.

For Brianna, high school just flowed.

“I’ve learned not to give up or depend on other people,” Brianna said as she stressed, “to do whatever you have to do to be successful.”

Her future plans are to attend St. Petersburg College for two years and transfer to the University of South Florida to major in business administration.

Originally from Texas, Hanna moved to St. Pete in her sophomore year and enrolled at Lakewood High School. In her junior year, she transferred to The Boca Ciega High School and faced some challenges.

“The hardest part was transitioning from being in Texas to Florida,” said Hanna.

She had to make new friends, get used to the hot weather, not to mention ditching all of her warm clothes.

“Basically the culture is different; my community is different. My interactions with people were very different. It was interesting and fun for me, but it was a challenge.”

Hanna said that even though everything was different in her life, she still had to be successful for herself.

“There’s going to be changes in life and I’m going to have to deal with it and actually change people around me sometimes,” she said.

Hanna plans yet another move to Virginia to attend Liberty University.

Alexis is another student who is no stranger to moving around during her high school career. After two years at Boca Ciega, she moved to another state. When she returned to Florida, she attended Lakewood before returning to Boca Ciega for 12th grade.

Cooper’s goals are to attend St. Petersburg College and then transfer to the University of South Florida to major in nursing. She wants to eventually become a midwife.

Andre had to quickly learn to shift academic gears after his transition from middle to high school.

“The work is way harder in high school,” said Andre, who also touched on another key lesson to learn.

“I had to learn how to maintain myself; balance having fun and balance school.”

Andre shared that he was shy and introverted the first two years in high school but then blossomed into a well-rounded young man who made honor roll and Principal’s List in his 11th and 12th grade.

He had help on the road to academic greatness in the form of two teachers.

“Mrs. Halstead and Mrs. Houston-Sithole were the types of teachers that if you needed to get some work done, you could go to their classroom from 2:05 and stay there until 6 p.m. to finish your work if you had to. They would take time out of their day to help you graduate.”

Andre is currently working to save money to add to his scholarship to start college at the University of South Florida. Eventually, he plans to transfer to Full Sail University and pursue a degree in computer engineering.

Unfortunately, I’Quez Ramsey could not attend the banquet, but being among the seven who received honors, no doubt his story is just as inspirational.

To reach Allen Buchanan, email abuchanan@theweeklychallenger.com.

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