As publisher of Blount Today, I am honored to attend many events in Blount County. There are parties, barbecues, golf tournaments, meetings, concerts, festivals -- the list goes on and on.
So to pick one event as my favorite could be a dangerous thing. But I have one. Those who know me well won’t be surprised.
The Turnaround Achievement Awards breakfast is my favorite event in Blount County. The 11th annual breakfast was held on Friday, May 2, at Royal Oaks Events Facility. I was officially “off” that day, getting ready for some weekend festivities in my own family.
But I wasn’t going to miss the Turnaround breakfast.
To make it even more tempting, the keynote speaker this year was one of the finest men I know and a favorite friend of mine: Bill Williams, anchor emeritus of WBIR-TV, Channel 10 News.
The Turnaround Achievement Awards breakfast, sponsored by the law firm of Costner and Greene, is an example of hope, perseverance, discipline, courage and character. It is a testament to faith -- faith in children and children’s faith in themselves.
The breakfast honors a student from each of the county’s high schools and middle schools who have overcome hardships and turned the corner in attitude, grades or discipline. They have turned their lives around, stepped off the path to trouble, failure or mediocrity and onto the right track.
I’m not sure which is the most heart-warming part of the event -- watching these young people straighten their shoulders and accept with pride the praise and plaques they receive, or watching the teachers, principals, counselors, coaches or other school personnel pride and joy as they tell the stories of the recipients. No doubt it is often students like these and mornings like this that keep educators coming back for another day, another semester, another year.
Both Bill Williams and emcee Bob Kesling gave the students good advice and words of encouragement. Kesling talked of the value of doing the right thing -- even when no one is looking, and Williams demonstrated with a $20 bill the self-worth and value of each person -- even when crumpled or dirty or frazzled.
As these students grow they may receive many honors and much praise, publicly or in their own families and workplace. On this morning, however, they were rewarded for the most important step they may ever take: putting past problems and bad attitudes behind them to step out onto the right path.
It’s a great, new beginning, and they are all to be congratulated.