Tuesday, May 04, 2010

4 MAY 10: Signs of Success

The last time I attended a high school commencement, the focus seemed to extend a bit beyond the graduates. The audience in Atlanta was told what percentage of the class was moving on to college - and the program listed all sorts of scholarship offers. It was almost like the school board was trying to justify another term in office.

A little of that concept arrived in Columbus for the first time Monday night. The Civic Center hosted the first-ever "National Signing Day for Scholars." It's modeled after the big day for high school football players in February - except I doubt radio stations will rate which college recruited the best class of straight-A seniors.

This National Signing Day celebrated high school seniors who have received academic scholarships. But it seems to me they were honored on the wrong night of the week. Don't most nerds want to be home on Monday night to watch "The Big Bang Theory"?

The signing day was created by former Columbus State University President Frank Brown. He organized a "Columbus National Scholarship Recognition Committee." Former university presidents don't come up with simple names like "The Friends of Brains."

From what I read online Monday night, each scholarship recipient received a certificate and a special pen. That pen is likely to become a collector's item - especially as iPads make the use of writing instruments increasingly obsolete.

I have nothing against honoring the top high school seniors in Columbus. But let's be honest - they already are honored in several ways. The Ledger-Enquirer will present "Page One" scholarship awards for the 35th time this month. At least, I assume the newspaper is doing that again. Or is there about to be a surprise merger with the Opelika-Auburn News?

And an academic scholarship isn't always an indicator of future success. Dick McMichael admits in his memoir his high school grades weren't great, and he only went to college thanks to a loan. Yet he became the elder statesman of Columbus TV news - instead of the lifelong drum major he appeared ready to be.

(My high school grades earned me a couple of scholarships, which helped me get through college. This month marks 30 years since I graduated from college -- and here I am, a blogger desperately hoping you notice that banner at the top of the page.)

The Columbus TV newscasts apparently agreed with me, because they skipped National Signing Day for Scholars. Maybe they decided it was no big deal, since many Georgia high school graduates automatically receive HOPE scholarships through the state lottery. Besides, the smart students who go to Ivy League schools tend to come back doing commercials for law firms.

(Or perhaps the TV news people have heard the classic advice of Cascade Hills Church Pastor Bill Purvis: "Get your degree - and then get over it.")

Today's Ledger-Enquirer reports more than 160 seniors were honored on signing day, for receiving more than $12 million in scholarships. But those numbers include Brookstone, Calvary Christian and Pacelli students. If they settle for HOPE scholarships, it's probably not what their parents hoped for.

The signing day came at the start of Teacher Appreciation Week in Muscogee County Schools. It culminates with Thursday night's banquet naming the Teacher of the Year. One of the four finalists teaches "business essentials" -- which makes me wonder if that classroom is an exception to the school cell phone policy.

Here's some of the other stuff which occurred Monday....

+ A dangerous line of storms dropped more than five inches of rain on Columbus. I'm trying to look on the bright side about this. Parts of Alabama showed up on the latest government drought map as "abnormally dry." And my next-door neighbor filled his giant fish-cooker pot with free water.

(But the rain ruined plans to hold four Georgia state high school golf tournaments across the city. Two of them have been rescheduled for next Monday - which must mean those courses already were booked full with business clients.)

+ A WRBL online poll found more than 80 percent of voters oppose the removal of police radar watches on River Road. Now I know this is a military town -- when large numbers of people support being under surveillance, and risk getting speeding tickets.

+ Oxbow Meadows broke ground for an expansion project. The two-million dollar project will include a display showing a tortoise habitat. I'll settle for the IMAX Theater showing a time-lapse movie version of that....

+ The National Infantry Museum marked the 50th anniversary of the "Follow Me" statue. The soldier who posed for that work of art told reporters the statue is twice his measurements - and even his earlobe was measured in 1960. As if you can see his earlobe under that helmet?!

+ Aflac held its annual shareholders meeting at the Columbus Museum. Have you noticed the company doesn't make a big deal about shareholders setting the executives' pay anymore? Maybe they're still in.... well, you know.... duck-and-cover mode.

+ Highlands Bar and Grill of Birmingham failed to win the acclaimed James Beard Foundation award for "Outstanding U.S. Restaurant." But simply being named a finalist with four-star restaurants in New York and Chicago is impressive. In most Southern cities, a "bar and grill" throws in the grill almost as an afterthought.

+ Instant Message to Alabama State Senate candidate Billy Beasley: I'm going to be watching closely for the next four weeks. If you run any attack ads, I'll know your first TV ad about "keeping the golden rule" is a lie.

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