Elexys Thomas, 17, will attend East Carolina University in the fall, making her the first in her family to attend college.
She was also awarded the “Commit Don’t Quit scholarship” at the Garner Education Foundation’s Marjorie Barefoot Awards Ceremony Monday afternoon. The ceremony, hosted at the Garner Performing Arts Center, recognizes students and teachers for their accomplishments throughout the year.
Elexys wants to be a social worker to help families who are struggling.
She said she kept one thing in mind as she’s journeyed through high school: To make her mom proud.
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“A lot of stuff that I’ve seen throughout my years in high school at Garner (Magnet High), all the problems I’ve seen families go through and I feel like I could (help) with that if I was a social worker,” Thomas said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I think I’ve known since sixth grade.”
Elexys’ AP English teacher, Spring Zuidema, walked her across the stage.
“Because of her positive attitude and determination and work ethic, she is a perfect candidate for it,” Zuidema said. “She has been very focused on getting into college and applying for scholarships to get into college. She’s very goal-oriented.”
Thomas was one of 13 Garner Magnet High students who received scholarships. Teacher of the Year nominees from each Garner school, teacher assistants and retired teachers were also given certificates for their achievements.
Kathy Hopkins, a music teacher at Aversboro Elementary and semifinalist for the Wake County Public Schools Teacher of the Year Award, was one of those teachers. She said it feels good to be recognized by the town you work in.
“I have always loved the town of Garner,” Hopkins said. “They have always done well by educators and the Garner Education Foundation is a tremendous resource to all of us.
“It’s important because it’s a community organization that supports the schools. And we know that they are out there raising money.”
The event brought all Garner area schools together.
The Garner Education Foundation has given away more than $100,000 over the last 10 years. This year they gave away the 13 scholarships for various reasons, including their community service, GPA, involvement in church, sports, club and need. The money comes from donations.
The ceremony is named in honor of the late Marjorie Barefoot, who taught for 37 years – 35 of them in Garner. She also was a hospitality committee chair and helped start the awards ceremony.
Barefoot died in 2012 from lung cancer. Education was her life’s work and her passion, her son Bart Barefoot, said. She taught fifth grade at Garner Elementary for most of her career and finished her career as a sixth-grade teacher at East Garner Middle School.
After she retired, she became a substitute teacher at different area Garner schools.
“She was passionate about supporting her students and driving them to achieve,” Bart Barefoot said of his mother. “And she was passionate about supporting the teaching profession. She understood the highs and the lows, the joys and the stresses of being a teacher. She felt that teachers did not and do not receive the recognition that they deserve. So she was very invested in recognizing her fellow teachers in any way that she could.”
The ceremony has taken place since 1995 and has expanded over the years. The Garner Education Foundation was founded in 1990.