The bright lights of country music stardom helped illuminate a beacon of volunteerism at Eustis High as students awarded its first honoree in the Jefferson Awards with local music sensation Michael Ray in attendance.
For nearly two years, student government at Eustis High has been diligently working to implement the Jefferson Awards, which is a national program created in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Sen. Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard to honor extraordinary individuals and companies whose profound achievements and commitment to their communities are making the world a better place to live.
“Our goal is to create a culture of service in the community,” said Melissa Arjona, SGA President at Eustis High.
The Jefferson Awards are presented on two levels: national and local. On the local level, Jefferson Awards recipients are ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation of recognition or reward. By honoring the recipients, it is the goal of the Jefferson Awards to inspire others to become involved in community and public service.
At its pep rally on Thursday, Michael Ray was invited for an impromptu concert as he celebrated winning the nationally televised show “The Next” on the CW network and a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Before the country music sounds filled the stadium, Arjona joined Ray on the football field to honor Jenna Jones with the first monthly Jefferson Award.
“She has gone above and beyond in the community and in the school providing help to others,” Arjona said.
Jones is a junior at the school and excels in and out of the classroom. She is a member of the Lady Panthers golf team, a leader in the school’s JROTC program and is an active volunteer in the community.
The pep rally was a homecoming for Ray and keyboardist Matt Gatch, a 2009 graduate of Eustis High. The duo met with familiar faces at the pep rally and posed for photos with students and faculty. Before leaving the pep rally, Ray imparted some advice to students.
“One thing I took out of this and I became very passionate about is I am from Eustis and I am proud to be from Eustis,” Ray said.
He continued, “The biggest thing is don’t give up. You have a passion of something in your heart that drives you every day. I am living proof if you work hard enough you can get anything God put in your heart to get.”