York County residents are celebrating retirements, recognitions and other accomplishments. Here are some of the highlights:
York Cougar winter ensembles bring home state wins
The York Middle School Cougar Cadet Winter Guard finished second at the South Carolina Band Directors Association state championship held March 19 at River Bluff High School in Lexington.
The York Comprehensive High School Percussion Ensemble also placed second while the school’s Varsity Winter Guard placed fourth at the state championship.
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“We are so proud of these very hardworking students,” said Laura Brooks, York Comprehensive High School band director. “They have been able to accomplish so much in a short amount of time. We are excited about the future of Cougar bands.”
Girl Scouts honor Fort Mill police
Local Girl Scouts recently brought a sweet surprise to the Fort Mill Police Department.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Cookies for a Cause, the Girls Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council recognized the Fort Mill Police Department as their Cookies for a Cause recipient.
On March 22, girls from Troops 3080 and 2012 delivered 50 cases - that’s 600 boxes of cookies – to the police department.
The Hornets’ Nest cookie donation program has a history of supporting military efforts through Cookies for Troops, but expanded those efforts to honor local groups during the program’s anniversary.
Three Girl Scouts troops chose to support the Fort Mill Police Department. One of the troops had worked with Officer Johnathan Gilbert to earn a patch and another has volunteered with the department’s Police Camp for years, said Kailey Miller, marketing and communications specialist for Girls Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council.
“These girls appreciate the police officers’ work and wanted to provide a sweet treat,” Miller said. “Once they received the cookies, the officers were excited to enjoy the cookies, pass them on to volunteers and share them with local volunteer firefighters.”
Residents can donate a box of cookies to Cookies for a Cause through any Girl Scout to support local food banks, police departments, hospitals, animal shelters and other organizations.
Rock Hill teens compete in pageant
A freshman at York Preparatory Academy in Rock Hill wants to make a difference in the lives of veterans.
Abby Smuda, 15, is an advocate for Mission 22, an effort to raise awareness of veteran suicide in America. More than 20 veterans take their own lives every day, according to Mission 22.
Abby said her brother is a veteran that suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Abby was recently crowned the USA National Miss Jr. Teen South Carolina, where she promoted her platform to support Mission 22.
“I wanted to be able to speak up for veterans in honor of my brother,” she said. “(Mission 22) hit close to my heart.”
The pageant, held March 19, challenged girls ages 7 to 20 years old to compete for thousands of dollars in prizes and specialty gifts. Aspects included casual and formal wear modeling routines and an interview with the judging panel.
USA National Miss is one of the fastest growing national pageant systems in the country and has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships and prizes since 2015, according to the organization.
“It was a great experience,” Abby said. “This is my first major win, and I went against some strong young women.”
She said competing in pageants has helped prepare her for college and improve her public speaking and interview skills. She is also a member of the Levine Children's Hospital Teen Advisory Council and volunteered for this year’s Tim Tebow Foundation’s A Night to Shine Prom.
Abby will represent the community at the national competition in Orlando, Fla., in July, where she will compete for more than $30,000 in prizes and awards.
Rock Hill resident Caris Thorsen also was chosen to compete in the 2017 Miss Jr. Teen South Carolina pageant competition, a release says.
Winthrop student, alumni receive fellowships
A Winthrop University senior and two alumni have received 2017 National Research Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program fellowships.
NSF fellowships support students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, according to the foundation.
“Three fellowships awarded in the same year to Winthrop students and alumni is an exceptional feat in what is a very competitive application process,” Karen Kedrowski, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said in a release.
The NSF received more than 13,000 applications for the 2017 program, awarding just 2,000 fellowships.
Winthrop senior Jordan Lewis was selected for a fellowship in disease ecology. Lewis, a biology and environmental science major, peer mentor and Eagle STEM Scholar, graduates in May.
A McNair Scholars program researcher, Lewis “conducted an award-winning study on the effects of coastal engineering projects on bacterial communities at Folly Beach,” the release states.
Lewis plans to study at Emory University and hopes to work for a federal agency such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fort Mill High and Winthrop University graduate Tyler Couch was selected for a biochemistry fellowship. Couch is a graduate student at the University of Rochester. He hopes to continue science research in an academic setting after he completes his degree.
Winthrop graduate Emili Moan holds a Ph.D. in statistics from North Carolina State University and a math degree from Winthrop.
“I hope to either teach or work in an industry setting after I get my degree,” Moan said in the release. “I'm the second math graduate from Winthrop to get the NSF fellowship in the past few years, and I think that that says a lot about what a great department we have.”
Chester County schools honor retirees
Linda Wylie served the Chester County School District for 48 years, the most of anyone in a room of nearly 60 retired Chester educators and staff members.
On March 22, Chester County honored retired administration personnel and teachers in the district’s first retiree luncheon. The event was held at the Gateway Conference Center in Richburg.
“We had a great turnout,” said district Superintendent Angela Bain.
Bain said she often runs into retired Chester educators in the community and wanted a way to honor them.
“I’m so impressed by their enthusiasm still,” she said. “These people have given so much. I’d like to say thank you from the school district and recognize them publicly.”
Arts string class students performed at the event and the joint JROTC from the county’s three high schools presented the colors for the ceremony.
In their late 80s, Willie Mae Stinson and Fannie Wright were the oldest retirees in attendance, according to the district.
The attendees “were so excited to talk about how long they had been (in Chester) and share some of their memories of being an educator in our school district,” Bain said. “They are still dedicated to children.”
Mozell Robinson, a Richburg resident who taught for 38 years in Chester, served as the guest speaker. Robinson is also a master storyteller and shared a story with the group, Bain said.
Most of the retirees still serve the Chester community in some way, Bain said.
“It was our day to honor and appreciate what they have done in our county over the years,” she said. “Their students are now our leaders in our community and other communities across the state.”