PRINCETON, WV, April 15, 2011:   Forty Mercer County seniors traded their jeans and T-shirts for dressier attire in preparation for the Top Scholars’ Banquet held April 14 at the Chuck Mathena Center.

The district continued a tradition begun last year of hosting a banquet to celebrate the top ten graduates at each of the four high schools. Students could each bring two guests, and principals, guidance counselors, and county administrators rounded out the audience. 

Superintendent Deborah Akers welcomed the group, and praised the students and their parents for their hard work and commitment to education.  “In the months and years ahead,” she said, “I will read about your accomplishments and careers, and take more than a little pride in knowing that you were products of Mercer County Schools.”

Keynote speaker for the event was Bluefield High Alumnus Steven O’Saile.  Dr. O’Saile, an orthopedic surgeon, graduated from Beaver in 1988, and went on to attend Bluefield College and the WV School of Osteopathic Medicine.  He currently practices at East River Orthopedic Associates.

The guest speaker was introduced by Tom Chaffins, supervisor of adolescent education and former health teacher, who remembered having O’Saile in class.  “Despite what I may or may not have taught him,” Chaffins joked, “he went on to successfully practice medicine.”

O’Saile told the students to remain open to possibilities, that it was a combination of luck and being in the right place that he chose a career in medicine. 

“I first thought I would be a math major,” he said.  “I had Mr. Addington in high school and, if you know Mr. Addington, you know how tough his class  was.”  O’Saile said he tried hard to live up to Mr. Addington’s expectations. “I always worried before class about having the right answers if he called on me,” he added.

O’Saile reminded the students to thank their teachers and their parents. “Up until now,” he said, “your parents and teachers have helped you in so many ways.  But from this point on, motivation is everything.  It will get tough, but it’s up to you.  You have to have the heart to succeed.”

Following Dr. O’Saile’s remarks, students from each of the four high schools were called to the front of the room.  As each honoree came forward, the school’s guidance counselor read a summary of the student’s awards and accomplishments.  Dr. Akers and the high school principal, joined by Board of Education members, presented each student with an engraved Top Scholars’ plaque.

 “Wow!” said Akers at the close of the presentation, “It makes me tired just hearing about all you’ve been doing.  I need to go home and go to bed!”

From Bluefield High School, this year’s top graduates are Jordan Carinelli, Arrin Carter, Charles Dobson, Mary Fontana, Caitlin Hassan, Claire Litton, Caroline Merritt, Sierra Silcox, Alexandrea Smith, and Byron Steptoe. 

Montcalm High’s top scholars include James Agee, Jr., Carrie Cantrell, Kellie Crane, Travis Feathers, Jeffary Hicks II, Stephanie Hodge, Brandon Kirby, Travis Lockett, Jessica Lowe, and Kayla Moore. 

At PikeView, the top ten students are Mariah Farley, Tyler Farley, Tess Jennings, Virginia Mann, Cassidy Meade, Alejandro Porras, Lyndsey Weatherly, Kiersten White, Sonya Whittaker, and Logan Wiley. 

Princeton’s distinguished list includes Nicholas Branson, David Cooper, Amber Jessee, Kaitlynn Lilly, Bethany Linkous, Thomas Lusk, Laken McKenzie, Adam Mills, Megan Pettus, and Halie Putorek.

Guidance counselors Cathy Blaylock, Jennifer Miller, Darlene Spencer-Bennett, and Kathy Fredeking, along with principals Joe Turner, Mark Page, Ben Disibbio, and Jack Parker participated in the program.  Mary Alice Kaufman gave closing remarks, and Board members Gilbert Bailey and Ted Gillespie were on hand to congratulate the students.