For the strength they have shown in overcoming obstacles in their lives and becoming leaders, 51 students from Horry County Schools were honored during the 14th Annual HTC REEL Kids Awards ceremony at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes Wednesday.
“When we receive the nominations from the schools and read about the hardships these young people have endured, we are humbled,” said Horry Telephone Cooperative CEO Michael Hagg.
Hagg placed a REEL Kids (Recognizing Extraordinary Examples of Leadership) medallion around the necks of each of the students, who ranged from kindergartners to high school seniors.
“These REEL Kids have fought through physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and the loss of loved ones, disease, emotional problems, abuse, abandonment, and so much more. The most remarkable fact is that the REEL Kids have overcome what some would have seen as stumbling blocks,” Hagg said.
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Each REEL Kid received a copy of the documentary “The Current,” which tells the story of 2012 Paralympics Gold medalist Mallory Weggemann, who was the guest speaker at the ceremony.
Martin Aveldanes, a Socastee High School senior, received the Meagan Conner award, given in memory of REEL Kid Meagan Conner of Loris who lost her battle with cancer four months before the first REEL Kids ceremony.
School counselor Fran Keller said that Martin is one of only 10 students working to achieve an IB diploma, which is the highest academic course load a student can pursue at the school and requires 150 hours of service.
Martin’s parents left Mexico before he was born. He was born in Georgia and they moved to Horry County when he was in the fifth grade, but had to sleep in their car until they accumulated enough money to get a place to live.
Martin has attended Forestbrook Elementary and Middle schools, the Scholars Academy at Coastal Carolina University, and Loris High School. He runs cross country, plays lacrosse, is a member of the Philosophy Club, is a charter member and vice president of the Med Club and is starting an Amnesty International Club.
Alex Faircloth, a junior at Loris High School, received one of two Taylor McKinney awards, given in memory of REEL Kid Taylor McKinney of Conway, who lost her battle with leukemia in 2005.
Alex was nominated by her teacher, Audrey Holmes, who called her “a ray of sunshine.”
Alex, who has struggled with cystic fibrosis all of her life, excels academically and athletically and demonstrates leadership qualities through working hard, never complaining, and always doing her best, Holmes said.
McKenzie Delaney, a North Myrtle Beach High School senior, received a Taylor McKinney Award and the Rodney C. Hardee Memorial Scholarship of $500, given in memory of Hardee, the director of public works and assistant fire chief in Loris who died in 2013.
McKenzie said that God has helped her to deal with the deaths of her boyfriend and her mother. She said Anderson Estep had been her boyfriend for more than two years when he went into the ocean to surf at Cherry Grove in June 2013 and never returned. In September, she went home from church and found that her mother had suffered a heart attack.
She excels academically in high school and duel enrollment at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, is involved in the National Honor Society, the National Beta Society and the National English Honor Society. She also works a job, has volunteered with several community organizations and has been accepted to attend Coastal Carolina University.
She said she looks forward to seeing what God will do in her life every day.
Cookie Goings, director of guidance at Myrtle Beach High School, received the Ken Summerall award for mentoring, given in memory of Summerall, HTC’s president and chairman of the board who died in 2011.
Goings nominated senior Graham Vaught to receive the REEL Kids award. Graham, who excels in academics and athletics, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in 2012. Goings said he is a young man of faith who holds firm to his beliefs and convictions, has a genuine affection for his creator and his peers, and is highly respected by them all. He is also very humble, she said.
If you had to hear it from him, you would not hear of Vaught’s accomplishments in football and basketball, but he might tell you about being a member of the Seahawks Mentoring Men, who mentor fourth- and fifth-grade boys at Myrtle Beach Intermediate School, and he would only tell you that because he loves those boys, Goings said.
HTC Senior Marketing Coordinator Nicole Hyman, who hosted the event, had interviewed each of the REEL Kids over the past few months and some of the interviews were shown during the ceremony. The interviews will run throughout the summer on HTC Channel 4, and the ceremony will be aired at a later date.