On Thursday, Feb. 6, local educators and community members will have the opportunity to gather at the Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist Church Family Life Center to celebrate longtime Cartersville Board of Education member and President Linda Benton while also raising money for the city’s GateKey Scholarship Program.
“The master of ceremonies is going to be a GateKey student; at each of our 30 tables we’re going to have a GateKey student assigned to be the host or hostess. We’re going to have the jazz band from the high school, which has several GateKey students in it, and then we’ll have a couple of numbers performed by our choral groups that have GateKey members as well,” Superintendent Howard Hinesley said of the event, titled “For the Love of Linda,” which includes social time, dinner and a program honoring Benton’s service on the school board.
Benton currently is serving her 20th year on the board and has spent more than a decade as president.
“We are very fortunate in Cartersville, and have been for many years now, to have a very strong school board and its primary goal is to make sure to do everything it can to benefit students. Ms. Benton has been a big part of that for the past 20 years and she is a tremendous leader,” Hinesley said. “She understands and appreciates that people have different opinions and disagree, but with her leadership she reminds people we should respect each others’ positions as board members, not questioning what their motives are or why they have a particular opinion, [and] that respect should be for every school board member ...”
He said the event will truly benefit the program because the cost of the dinner is underwritten by Cartersville Medical Center and Terry and Claudia Laughridge.
“100 percent of the ticket prices are going to be tax deductible and 100 percent of those ticket sales will go to support the scholarship,” Hinesley said. “There’s absolutely no question that the super majority of these kids [in GateKey] are possibly headed toward dropping out or not being able to continue their post-secondary education after high school simply because they didn’t really ... see there were resources available, [or] that they didn’t feel there was a real need to do well in school and didn’t see the opportunity of a post-secondary experience.
“All of our kids in college now are in good standing, which is real exciting. We’ve lost very few in their high school years that didn’t fulfill the contract ...”
He continued, “This program has been real beneficial in giving kids a real purpose, that somebody in their community is out there willing to help them with a post-secondary education.”
Cartersville Schools Foundation President Lisa Bell explained in a press release, “The Cartersville Schools Foundation’s GateKey Scholarship program establishes two-year scholarships for eligible students and gives them the opportunity to work toward an attainable goal of a college education.
“Through a partnership with Georgia Highlands College and Chattahoochee Technical College, students may attend either college and be provided funds for tuition, fees, and a book allowance for two years. Students wishing to attend another college may request to use their allotted funds elsewhere.
“Students may be nominated for a GateKey Scholarship in grades 6 through 11. Applicants must be approved for free/reduced lunch. If selected, students will be required to sign a contract along with their parents/guardian. The contracted obligation requires the GateKey Scholar to maintain at least a ‘C’ average in each class, study and complete assignments, require no disciplinary action, and remain crime and drug free.
“GateKey currently supports 74 students attending Cartersville Middle School, Cartersville High School, Berea College, Anderson College, UGA, Mercer, West Georgia, Georgia State, and Georgia Highlands.”
Individual tickets for the event are $125 each. The event will begin with social time from 6:30 to 7 p.m., followed by the dinner and program from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are available from the central office, 15 Nelson St. in Cartersville, or by calling 770-387-4710.