As Published by Aiken Standard, March 21, 2009
By ROB NOVIT
After 23 years as the Key Club adviser at Silver Bluff High School, teacher Mary Thomas still gets excited about her students' accomplishments and for good reason.
The service-based organization has won a "Distinguished Club Award" at the Carolina District Key Club Convention previously and did so again at the 2009 event in Durham, N.C., last weekend. This time, Silver Bluff was one of three schools in the 260-school district to earn a "diamond" designation for superior performance in all areas.
Senior David Estep took first place for his striking poster illustration promoting the club. In 2008 his entry captured second place in international competition. Once again, Estep has qualified for the international conference in Dallas in July.
Nick Hall, also a senior, was among five students in the district to win the Outstanding Lieutenant Governor Award. In that role, he works with six high school Key Club programs and helped start a club at Aiken High School.
Silver Bluff also took first place for its single service project. Key Club members tutor children in after-school projects and also raise funds for Unicef, the Children's Miracle Network and the March of Dimes. The students as a group took first place in talent for a rendition of "We are the World." Freshman Victoria Jacks took third in the oratorical contest.
Key Club is the high school division of Kiwanis International. Thomas said the Silver Bluff program has gotten tremendous support and encouragement from the Aiken Kiwanis Club.
"I got involved with Key Club the second I got to high school," Hall said. "It was the most popular club and all my friends were joining. But as the years go by, you see who is dedicated to the organization. I'm in a bunch of clubs, but this is the one I've dedicated the most time to. It's really had an impact on my high school career."
Estep said Key Club has given him to the opportunity to become self-taught with Photoshop and video production. But he agrees with Principal Todd Bornscheuer, who praised Thomas and her students for their focus on responsibility that extends to civic engagement in the community.
"It has helped me become a better person," said Estep. "It's fulfilling to go to nursing homes and see people smile. That's really rewarding."
Freshman Sarah Zimmerman readily admitted she joined Key Club last fall because it would look good on a resume. But she too has been won over because of the club's community projects and is now the chapter's secretary. Club members recently visited the We Care nursing home for St. Patrick's Day.
"It's a great opportunity to help others and it's a lot of fun, too," Zimmerman said. "It's really important to get involved."
Contact Rob Novit at firstname.lastname@example.org.