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Alumni group honors 2 local graduates by breaking tradition
Gainesville High School graduates Sonia Zavala, left, and Kiana Glasper were awarded scholarships from the Fair Street-Butler Alumni Association during a ceremony Sunday at the Beulah Rucker Museum & Education Center. - photo by Tom Reed

The Fair Street-Butler Alumni Association normally hands out academic scholarships when it holds its reunion every two years.

With its next reunion in 2011 at Lake Lanier Islands, the group broke tradition Sunday as it handed out $1,000 checks in a ceremony at the Beulah Rucker Museum & Education Center off U.S. 129 in Gainesville.

“We accumulated enough money so we could give away more scholarships,” said Thomas Hailey, the association’s president.

The plan now, Hailey said, is to hand out the scholarships annually, reunion or no.

The alumni group, comprising students who attended two all-black schools that operated in Gainesville before integration, sees the scholarships as a way of “giving back,” said Joanne Ramsey, who heads the group’s scholarship committee.

“This is to help the youth coming forward,” she said. “Our main goal is to give youth some opportunities that they really deserve and need.”

Sunday’s ceremony featured several speakers and a check presentation to Kiana Glasper and Sonia Zavala, Gainesville High School graduates headed to the University of Georgia in the fall.

The two recipients are “very similar,” Ramsey told the small crowd gathered at the event. “They both are just dynamically smart, have great grade-point averages ... and they both want to end up in the medical field.

“Both of them are reliable, committed and strong-minded. ... And they are both Christians.”

Zavala, 18, daughter of Armando and Maria Zavala, plans to major in biology with the goal of becoming an ophthalmologist.

Glasper, 17, daughter of Mike and Pamela Glasper, is aiming to become a physical therapist or orthopedic physician assistant, majoring in exercise and sports science this fall.

“I want to say thank you to my parents,” Glasper said.

“They always kept me grounded — they always pushed me to keep my books first even when I was playing basketball ... and to never give up and aim high.”

Zavala also thanked her parents and the group’s scholarship committee.

“I’m going to use this (scholarship) to the best of my ability, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our savior and it’s all thanks to him,” she said.

In closing words, Hailey told Glasper and Zavala that the group is proud of them and “we’re sure you’re going to be successful.”

“Keep in touch with us. ... Let us know how you’re doing,” he said. “If you need (the alumni association), even just for a word of encouragement, we’ll always be there for you.”

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