On May 10 the Catoosa County Public School Partnership Program hosted a luncheon at the Colonnade in Ringgold to honor businesses that have partnered with area schools by helping with funds, supplies, volunteers, mentors and events.

Dozens of contributors and volunteers were honored with plaques and applause for their help.

But the highlight of the event may have been a surprise guest, someone who was not on the agenda. As partners were being called forward for recognition, a young man by the name of Caleb Smart slipped up beside CCPS Partnership Coordinator Buffy Hemphill behind the scenes and asked permission to address the crowd.

Smart is graduating from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School this year. While most students who benefit from having a mentor at some point during their school career see their mentor for just one year, Smart and his mentor, Lisa Pierce, have been working together for 10 years, and Smart wanted to thank Pierce publicly. The room was reduced to tears and gave Strong a standing ovation.

The awards

“We are blessed with many wonderful partners in the Catoosa County Public School System,” says Hemphill. “It’s extremely hard to choose only a few for special recognition each year. Every one of our partners is a vital part of the success of students.”

The School Project of the Year, says Hemphill, was the Catoosa County Rising Professionals Academy. The academy was sponsored by Martha Eaker and The Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce; Suzan Gibson and Shaw Industries; Bill Abline and Food City; Jonathan Connell and MedSTAT; Rip Connell and Private Clinic North; Joe Callahan and The Print Shop; Tim Lawson, Tyler Maynor and the Coca Cola Bottling Company; and Andy Waldrop and Terri O’Neal from Chick-fil-A.

Awards were given in various categories. This year, winners were:

System Partner of the Year: Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk. “He supports all 17 schools by providing school resource officers, financial contributions and providing background checks for our mentors,” says Hemphill.

Other System Partners include Capital Bank, Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, Chattanooga Coca Cola Bottling Company, Chick-fil-A, Children’s Dentistry of Chattanooga, First Volunteer Bank, Food City, MedSTAT, Metro Boiler Tube Company, North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, Pediatric Dentistry, Ringgold Telephone Company, Shaw Industries and The Print Shop.

Large Partner of the Year: Mark Collins, president and CEO of Metro Boiler Tube, who partners with every school in the system. Other Large Partner nominees included Capital Bank, Center for Sports Medicine, Shaw Industries, North Georgia EMC, Coca Cola, and Food City.

Medium Partner of the Year: Universal Paint & Collision Center. Other Medium Partner nominees included Fazoli’s, North Georgia Healthcare Center, Children’s Dentistry, Wallace Tile, Circle K, Park Place Restaurant, Greased Lightin,’ and Barnes & Noble.

Small Partner of the Year: True Life Chiropractic. Other nominees for Small Partner included Tiger Rock Martial Arts, Promise Pediatric, Jason Webb Dentistry, American National Insurance, DBW Properties, and Johnson’s Auto Repair.

New Partner of the Year: Liberty Baptist Church. Other new partners that were nominated included Modern Woodmen of America, First Volunteer Bank, Shaw Industries, Movement Mortgage, Village Print Shoppe and Jack’s.

Social Service Partner of the Year: The North Georgia YMCA. Other nominees for Social Service Partner included the Catoosa County Department of Juvenile Justice, Communities in School, and The McCallie School.

Church/Civic Partner of the Year: Rock Bridge Community Church. Other Church/Civic Partner nominees included Parkway Baptist Church, Burning Bush Baptist Church, Prison Prevention Ministries, Fort Oglethorpe United Methodist Church, Graysville United Methodist Church, Ringgold Kiwanis Club, Woodstation United Methodist Church, and New Heights Baptist Church.

Robert Hitchcox Championship Award: Presented to Marcy Kernea, public relations and advertising manager for Ringgold Telephone Company, by Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese for sponsorship of the Student Leadership Academy.

Mentors from each school in the Catoosa County system were recognized at the luncheon and thanked for their service. Mentors include: Linda Dodson, Carla Wyatt, Detective Daniel Thacker, Deputy James Rogers, Shasta Ralston, Andrea Clark, Debra Moberly, Tom Mathis, Chris Hunt, Lisa Jeffers, Lorraine Josey, Toby Solberg, Lt. LC Cripps, Waconda Hughes, Keith Jones, and Lisa Pierce.

To learn more about the Catoosa County Public School Partnership Program 2000, visit p2000.org.