It was the first full in-person gathering for the R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Awards since 2019.
Due to COVID-19, the 2020 awards were presented to the winners at their respective homes then last year, the winners were honored at small gathering during a luncheon meeting of the Van Wert Service Club. Wednesday night, all 10 finalists and their guests were among those present for the 52nd annual award banquet at Vantage Career Center.
Tiana Groves and David May were named this year’s winners.
Groves is a senior at Van Wert High School and is a member of National Honor Society, Beta Club, Spanish Club, student council and Scarlett Squad, and she participates in the youth group at LifeHouse Church. In addition, she has a C.E.O. internship with Van Wert Health and the Van Wert County Foundation while also working at Walmart.
She noted growing up was not easy, as her mother struggled with substance abuse and schizophrenia and left her with her father at the age of two. She added her father worked consistently to provide for her and her younger sister, but there were times she and her family went without heat and water.
“Despite these hardships, I continuously choose to be the best student and overall person I can be,” Groves wrote.
A teacher noted Groves is a 100 percent responsible person and can be counted on to follow through on her commitments, and never complains or seeks sympathy. A youth group leader echoed the same sentiment.
“Tiana is an outstanding role model for how much teenagers can overcome and rise above when they choose to become self-reliant,” the youth group leader wrote.
Following graduation, Groves plans to attend Rhodes State College with the goal of obtaining her radiographic imaging (ARRT) certification, then she plans to continue her education at Saint Francis majoring in advanced medical imaging (AMI) and minoring in marketing.
May is a senior at Lincolnview High School and is a member of Beta Club, Spanish Club, the Spirit Squad and the varsity bowling team. He has volunteered with the YWCA, Salvation Army and Marsh Foundation. Work experience includes Lincolnview Latchkey, M&M RV and Ohio City Express.
He wrote that being self reliant means having the ability to take control of your life, being motivated from within and being able to take care of yourself. May noted that while growing up, his family was considered low income and relied on food stamps and food pantries. He also said through his work with the YWCA, he has come face-to-face with broken homes, abusive families and homelessness.
“For many of the children in the summer food program they were happy on the outside but on the inside they were fearing the time when the program ended,” he wrote.
“He has a willingness to always give a helping hand to staff,” a supervisor wrote. “I know if I give David a task he’s going to complete it.”
After graduation, May plans to continue his education by pursuing a degree in social work from the University of Findlay.
Other girl finalists were Kaylei Cavinder, Grace Dowler, Brooklyn Laukhuf and Carlee Young, while other boy finalists were Trevon Barton, Evan Bowersock, Trey Laudick and Jacob Sealscott. All 10 finalists earned a $500 scholarship and Groves and May were each awarded an additional $500 for being named the winners.
Terrance Talley, considered one of the best student focused speakers in the country, was the guest speaker. His talk centered around his upbringing and his message was one of resilience.
Dave Thompson, the son of R.K. Thompson Jr., who created the R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Awards to honor his father’s commitment to working with young people, named the top award winners, while Eunice Thompson, the wife of R.K. Thompson Jr., presented plaques and an additional check to the two top winners.
Van Wert City Schools Assistant Superintendent Bill Clifton served as master of ceremonies and Kimberly Laudick and Mark Schumm introduced the finalists.
Original Article Courtesy to The Van Wert Independent