APT Announces 2018 Young Heroes

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Alabama Public Television has announced the winners of its 2018 APT Young Heroes scholarships.  Denver Sha-Vonne Benjamin of Cherokee, Brie Evans of Trinity, Devique McWilliams of Mobile, Aidan Olivia Mills of Hazel Green and Andrew T. Walker of Florence will each receive a $5,000 scholarship to the school of their choice, a tablet computer and other prizes as well.

Nominees for APT’s Young Heroes Award must be full-time students in a 9th through 12th grade curriculum, and must have demonstrated academic excellence, active participation in their community and the courage to persevere in the face of adversity.

The five recipients will be honored at an awards dinner Wednesday, March 7 at 6:30pm at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center in Montgomery.  Legislators from each of the students’ congressional districts have been invited to attend.

ABOUT THE YOUNG HEROES

  • Denver Sha-Vonne Benjamin is a senior at Cherokee High School.  Diagnosed with lupus when she was in the 8th grade, Denver was nevertheless a high achiever in school, excelling in academics, athletics and extracurricular activities. Then she experienced a stroke in the 10th grade that left her homebound. Denver had to learn to walk, talk, and feed herself all over again, but this young woman overcame these obstacles and returned to school in the fall. By her senior year she was captain of the cheerleading squad, the varsity volleyball and softball teams, and president of the Student Council. Denver plans to attend college and to pursue a career as a neonatal nurse. 
  • Brie Evans is a senior at West Morgan High School. Brie’s parents divorced when she was two because of her father’s drug and alcohol addictions.  After ten years coming in and out of Brie’s life, her father went to prison. Despite years of this strain at home, Brie is an outstanding student with a resume filled with community and school achievements. She plays varsity volleyball and basketball, and is active in the Student Council, the FCCLA, the Service Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the National Honor Society – among many others. Brie is the recipient of the Joe Wheeler Youth Tour Scholarship, Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award, and is a Bryant Jordan Scholarship nominee. She plans to become a veterinarian.
  • Devique McWilliams, who attends W.P. Davidson High School in Mobile, was diagnosed with meningitis when he was six weeks old. He survived, but the condition left him with severe speech and learning delays, and he didn’t begin talking until age 6. Although doctors said he was autistic, Devique’s parents were convinced he could overcome his delays, and he has done just that. He maintains a 3.5 grade point average in school where he is active in the NJROTC, undertakes additional responsibilities at home and at school, and participates in a variety of community service projects with his fraternity, the Alpha Elites.
  • Aidan Olivia Mills from Hazel Green High School suffered a seizure when she was 3 years old and had to be airlifted to Huntsville Hospital for treatment. Her parents’ experience then – traveling to Huntsville with no chance to pack – gave her the idea to create toiletry bags for parents at the Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. That idea, the 13:13 Project, then grew into providing meals for these parents who were in need, and Aidan began fundraisers providing more than $3,000 for these meals. On June 8, 2017, Aidan was among dozens of students from her church injured in a bus crash that killed one of her friends. Aidan suffered a broken arm, a severe concussion and a dislocated jaw. The crash, however generated regional attention to the 13:13 Project, resulting in even greater growth. Aidan was honored as the Young Citizen of the Month by Community Awareness for Youth in Huntsville.
  • Andrew T. Walker is a senior at Florence High School. Few people know that Andrew underwent many surgeries related to the functioning of his kidneys. Andrew also grapples daily with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. Despite this, Andrew maintains excellent grades. A member of the Technology Student Association, Andrew received a judge’s award and placed second in the state in the Vex Robotics competition in 2013. In 2014, he placed 6th in the state in this same competition. In 2018, he received 12th place in the Best Robotics competition. In his community, Andrew has volunteered at the Kiwanis Pancake Day, the local Ups and Downs thrift store, and for his school’s supply drive.  He is active with the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity service organization and attends workshops every other Sunday.

In addition to a scholarship, each Young Hero will receive a trophy and a tablet computer with software suitable for a college student. One of the five winners will be selected to receive an additional award — the Marissa Feigelson Award for community service — that offers an additional $1,000 scholarship. That announcement will be made as part of the ceremony on March 7.

The APT Young Heroes and their families will stay in Montgomery for a day of special events on Thursday, March 8th. They will visit the Alabama Statehouse on Thursday morning to meet Alabama House and Senate members and to see the legislators in action.  In the afternoon, they will visit the Rosa Parks Museum for a guided tour.

The APT Young Heroes program is made possible by the generous donations of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Medical Properties Trust, Landers McLarty Chevrolet, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Books-A-Million, the Rosa Parks Museum, Precision Graphics, and Signs Now/Awards & Engraving Place.

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