NOMINATIONS FOR POSITIVE ATHLETES 2016-2017
Girls Swimming & Diving – Miya Moon – Coretta Scott King
Miya Moon, a senior at Coretta Scott King High School in Atlanta does not think about being the star of her Swimming team, although she was named the MVP of not only her swim team, but her cross country team as well. She was also named to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl “Play It Smart All-Academic Team”. What this 3.9 GPA and Magna Cum Laude student-athlete thinks about most is serving others by making full use of her talent and leadership skills. We would be here all night listing everything she does in the community, but here are some examples of the over 400 hours of community service she does: * She’s a member of her church’s bereavement ministry, serving families who were mourning a loss of a loved one through support. * She’s involved with the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, tutoring students who have difficulties with the STEM subjects. * She helps the GA Baptist Children’s Home raise money for the homeless and troubled teens who resided at the center. * And she volunteers for “Black Ladies Rock” a non-profit organization, working along with many other influential Black women to raise money for families and single mothers in need.
Boys Soccer – Conner Domaleski – Heritage
Well-rounded, selfless, giving, positive, and caring…those are some of the adjectives used to describe Conner Domaleski, a senior goalkeeper for the Heritage High School in Rockdale County boys’ soccer team. He has a 4.2 GPA and is ranked 5th in his class. Obviously, Conner has distinguished himself as a hard-working, determined student athlete, but what really sets him apart is his generosity and compassion. Conner has found a passion for helping special needs students. In fact, he organized a group of over 40 students to attend a special needs football game to cheer and hold signs to give the players a true “Friday night lights” experience. He now helps coach the team as well as assisting with a ministry for special needs students. Although he has struggled with a stutter most of his life, he hasn’t let that stop him from making a difference in his community. And for making that difference, we was honored as our Most Positive Boys Soccer Athlete.
Boys Swim & Diving – Octavious Wright – Riverwood
Positive Athlete searches for high school student-athletes who have overcome difficult circumstances and have remained positive. Our next recipient, Octavious Wright, a senior at Riverwood High School in North Fulton County, had back surgery due to scoliosis in May 2014. In September of that same year, just two days after his 17th birthday, he blacked out while driving and totaled his car. It was at this time he learned the cause for the blackout was due to a seizure. It was not until the following March after yet another seizure resulted in a lengthy stay in the hospital, including being on a ventilator for a period of time, that he was diagnosed with epilepsy. This never stopped Octavious, nor did it affect his amazing positive attitude. His positivity, passion and drive to reach his goals as a Diver on the Riverwood swim team punctuated his inspiring story. Tonight, we tell his story as an inspiration for student-athletes everywhere that setbacks like Octavious experienced doesn’t mean you can’t live out your dreams.
Boys Alternative (Water Polo) – Justin Cucchi – Grady
Our Boys Alternative Sports Athletes is Justin Cucchi, a senior at Grady High School in Atlanta who competes in the sport of Water Polo. Justin is an exceptional student-athlete who successfully juggles the demands of his sport, academics and extra-curricular activities. He is a competitive swimmer and holds the school record in seven different swimming individual and relay events, and was the first Grady High School boy to ever make the state championship finals. Justin is also an exceptional student who has a 3.8 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society taking a rigorous mix of AP and honors courses. Outside of the pool and classroom, Justin is very involved in the community. He has logged over 530 hours volunteering at Zoo Atlanta where he teaches visitors about the animals. Justin was also one of two American students chosen to participate in NOAA’s “Ocean for Life” program in which students from all over the world attend a marine science and ocean conservation field study program in California. His community engagement earned him a spot in Atlanta Intown Magazines “20 under 20” issue which highlights young people who are doing great things in their community.
Girls Alternative (Boxing) – Valentina Lopez – East Hall
This year Positive Athlete Georgia continued a tradition of awarding athletes who participate in sports not always offered by the GHSA as championship sports. We call them “Alternative Sports”, and tonight we would like to introduce you to Valentina Lopez, a senior from East Hall High School who competes in the sport of Boxing. High school is already a difficult time for teens. Imagine being relocated to a completely different country where no one speaks your native language. Valentina moved to East Hall her sophomore year from Columbia, South America. She started both boxing and cheering her junior year not knowing very much English and with very little experience. But Valentina worked hard and became outstanding at both, showing great leadership skills. And she does well in the classroom as witnessed by her receiving the Viking Achievement Award in biology. In a life situation in which it took a full measure of positivity, Valentina came through with flying colors. She was honored for the Alternative sport of Boxing, but she is a Positive Athlete no matter what sport she decides to play.
Softball – Taylor Hayes – Evans
Our Most Positive Softball Athlete comes from Evan High School in Columbia County in East Georgia. Taylor Hayes is an extraordinary young woman who was diagnosed with a rare brain abnormality that began to enlarge during her sophomore year. Taylor had to spend a semester of high school in Boston to receive treatment, and there were high risks with surgery including loss of sight and brain function. Yet Taylor persevered and courageously underwent extensive medical treatment, and was a positive inspiration to her family, coaches, and teachers in the Columbia County Community. At one time, the chances of her returning to the softball field were incredibly slim; however, she returned to the softball field this year for her senior season and was a constant reminder to her teammates that nothing in life can be taken for granted. This 4.0 GPA student is an AP Scholar, University of Georgia Merit Scholar, and a Governor’s Honors Program alumni, and walks the halls of Evans High School with a warm smile and encouraging word for every person she passes.
Girls Basketball – Kandi Hudson – New Manchester
The Girls’ Basketball winner comes from New Manchester High School in Douglas County where she maintains an excellent 3.68 GPA and is an outstanding basketball player. But what Kandi Hudson would want you to know about her is her how she is already realizing her short term goal to make a difference in the community, and her long term goal is to start her own enterprise. That organization would provide services to veterans both physically and mentally so that they may transition back into society. This junior is already the CEO of a non-profit organization called “Karing Hands” which feeds the homeless, gives back to local schools whether it’s school supplies or uniforms, and even generated two $500 Positive Athlete Scholarships for student-athletes at her former High School, Pebblebrook. Kandi he was recognized by WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins for her philanthropic acts and named her a Skylar Scholar. In addition to her philanthropic work, she is involved with Student Government and the National Society of High School Scholars. The world is a better place because of our 2016 Most Positive High School Girls Basketball Athlete.
Multi-Sport – Tyrone Kelsey, Jr. – Swainsboro
This Positive Athlete entered a Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Home at Herrington Homestead in Nunez, Georgia in March of 2013. Tyrone Kelsey, a junior at Swainsboro High School in Emanuel County in East Georgia remains with the Sheriff’s Home today along with a brother and a sister. You see, Tyrone had a troubled past. When he came to the Sherriff’s Home, he and his siblings were homeless and Tyrone was headed in a dangerous direction due to mistakes in his past and lack of family structure. Tyrone entered an Alternative Placement in ninth grade, but struggled mightily in all of his classes. But something clicked with Tyrone and he started working his way out of Alternative Placement and set academic habits which allowed him to have success. He chose to remain with Sheriff’s Home as a private placement, so he will now have the opportunity to attend college. Sports became a way for Tyrone to flourish with relationships, and he has kept his good grades while juggling multiple sports such as basketball, football, soccer, wrestling, and track. He is now successful at everything he does and is an exceptional role model for everyone – especially children that face similar challenges in their lives.
Volleyball – Katie Beckham – Woodstock
Five days into Katie Beckham’s Freshman volleyball season at Woodstock High School in Cherokee County, she was diagnosed with a large tumor in her femur. In an effort to get her back on the court, she agreed to have surgery on the following Friday and was dressed out court side Monday for her JV team’s first match of the season. During her bone regrowth and recovery period (which involved grueling physical therapy) Katie never missed a game with her team. Katie’s commitment to rehabilitation allowed her to get cleared to play within 8 weeks of her surgery, just after her team finished their season. Despite the setback, Katie made a national level team and continued to work and train. The following summer, Katie not only made the varsity squad as a sophomore, but she started every game, agreeing to play a different position to fill a need for the team. She also speaks to young athletes about how she overcame these obstacles as a WellStar Wellness Counselor. Katie was honored for her dedication to her team, and everyone in her community.
Wrestling – Jahi DeLoatch – Woodland
The Most Positive Wrestling Athlete is an inspiring young man who strives to put others before himself. Jahi DeLoatch is a sophomore at Woodland High School in Henry County and takes pride in being a student first, and an athlete second, and he is also a leader among his peers on the wrestling team. Many of you may know Jahi from a video posted on Facebook that now has more than ten million views worldwide. Jahi wrestled an intellectually disabled athlete from Alcovy High School, and despite the fact that Jahi has never lost by being pinned, Jahi allowed the young man from Alcovy to pin him to give he and his family a gift that will last a lifetime. Through his selfless act, Jahi has inspired millions of people in demonstrating that athletes with special needs deserve as much of an opportunity as their general education peers. He is a role model both on and off the mat, as well as academically.
Girls XC – Valerie Stover – Griffin Christian
Valeria Stover embodies the determination and “never give up” spirit of a true positive athlete. Just 5 days after she was born, Valerie was diagnosed with Kernicterus, which caused brain damage and lead to Cerebral Palsy. Doctors told her parents that they doubted Valerie would ever be able to walk or talk. She began therapy when she was just 4 months old, using a walker to get around as a toddler until she could walk on her own with the help of leg braces. As she got older, she wanted to participate in sports but she was not going to settle for being a water girl. When she was in 5th grade, her school started a cross-country team and Valerie told her mom, “I can do that!” She started running that day and has never looked back. Now a junior at Griffin Christian in Spalding County, she has earned a varsity letter in both cross-country and track. And get this, she is now training for her first full marathon to help raise money for the special needs school in Griffin that she attended as a child.
Baseball – Tristan Brown – Heard County
Tristan Brown, a senior from Heard County High School in West Georgia, joined the baseball team his sophomore year and immediately established himself as a starter, and leader, on the team. What’s remarkable about Tristan is his positive outlook on life given his circumstances. Tristan comes from a troubled home life situation where his family was evicted from their home multiple times in the past two years. Recently his family moved and left Tristan behind. In the three years he’s been at Heard County he has lived with almost everyone on the baseball team at one point or another. Despite his situation, Tristan comes to school and practice every day with a great attitude. No one from his family has ever graduated from high school and Tristan is on his way to getting the HOPE scholarship and also playing baseball in college. His coaches say how remarkable he is considering he has every reason to be down on his situation. Tristin’s motto is that “ You make your own luck in this world by how hard you work, and what kind of attitude you have on a daily basis”.
Gymnastics – Jordan Leet – Milton
Jordan Leet, a junior at Milton High School in North Fulton County competes in the sport of Gymnastics. Jordan is an exceptional young lady, giving 100% in all that she does. From killing it on the Gymnastics team, to excelling in the classroom, Jordan does it all with tenacity, drive, and a smile on her face. She is an outstanding team player and truly represents herself as the Positive Athlete she is. Jordan has many accomplishments including winning the Floor State Championship. She has also won multiple first, second, and third place finishes on Floor, Vault, and Beam at state. Off the mat Jordan has been the lead student for five consecutive years on the “Fostering Hope Blanket Project” which offers custom made blankets to children in foster care so they can transition to different households with something of their own. Her dream is to study speech therapy in hopes of helping children with autism build communication skills. She’s a talented girl with a passion for serving others.
Boys Cross Country – Kevin Bonner – Villa Rica
Kevin Bonner has continued to be a Positive Athlete while events he could not control swirled around him. He is a 4-year varsity starter and captain on both the Boys Cross Country and Soccer teams for Villa Rica High School in West Georgia. Kevin’s dad suffered a major stroke last year, spent several weeks in the hospital, and suffered some permanent damage. All of this while his mother has battled cancer during his high school years. In spite of these difficult situations, Kevin has continued to serve as a leader and model to his school, his soccer team, and most importantly, his three younger siblings. This senior has been a positive leader for the team including organizing offseason conditioning activities for the players to prepare for each season. He is also a model student with a strong GPA, and even served as class president during his junior year. Beyond all this, Kevin is also active in the community by going to the local elementary schools to read to the younger children. All of these things have been completed in the face of trying circumstances for any young person to deal with.
Atlanta/DeKalb – Anne Elizabeth Heyse – Lakeside
Anne Elizabeth Heyse is an extraordinary person. This senior from Lakeside High School in DeKalb County is not only a talented athlete, she is also a leader in many other aspects of her life. She finds time for community service, going on a week-long mission trip once a year, volunteering at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and serving dinner at the Journey homeless shelter. Anne Elizabeth is also a straight A student who has won dozens of academic awards such as the Coca-Cola Citizenship Award and The Furman Scholar award. And she has done this despite the serious learning disability of being dyslexic since first grade. She had trouble learning the letters of the alphabet, much less the sounds they made, and reading was out of the question. But Anne Elizabeth worked hard to overcome this obstacle and has built a 4.2 GPA, even though it still takes her significantly longer than most kids to do homework and take tests. Anne Elizabeth is a difference-maker in the Atlanta community.
Football – Ryan Adams – Bainbridge
For our Most Positive Football Athlete we take you to the southwest corner of the state and Bainbridge High School where Ryan Adams, a junior at Bainbridge has been a Positive Athlete since he was 8 years old. Every Christmas since he was in second grade, Ryan has been selling hot chocolate by himself during the holidays. That sounds like a very endearing story until you find out that he has been raising $8,000 a year every Christmas for families in need. Through his efforts, he is helping families of kids with cancer pay light bills, buy Christmas gifts and groceries, and supplying gas cards for their travel to and from southwest Georgia to Atlanta. Ryan not only has an extraordinary heart and compassion for life for those around him, he is also an honor roll student and two sport athlete in football and wrestling. But what Ryan would most want you to know about him is how he has influenced so many kids and adults in his community.