Although forced to forego its annual Student of the Year banquet, the Rome Noon Optimist Club has announced winners for 2020.

Cash scholarships and certificates were mailed to the students this week, according to Priscilla Watkins, program chairperson.

All area high schools were invited to submit one entry in each of three categories: All Around, Community Involvement and Fernando Guzman-Ambriz Life Hero.

A panel of judges working separately rated the applications numerically based on each category’s criteria and the scores are tallied to determine winners.

“It is always a very difficult and thought-provoking process for the judges,” said Priscilla Watkins, co-chair of the club’s student recognition program.

The All Around category winner and recipient of a $1,000 scholarship was Darlington’s Joseph “Frank” Manning.

Frank is the son of Thomas and Susan Manning. He plans to study biological science at the University of Georgia.

The two other finalists, receiving $500 awards, were Model High School’s Brylen Cantrell, daughter of Matt and Rhonda Cantrell, and Payton Rhoades, Pepperell High School, son of Bobby and Deb-E Rhoades.

Abigail Burris, also a Darlington senior, was judged winner of the Community Involvement category and a $750 award.

The daughter of Dawn and Jeff Burris, she plans to seek a bachelor’s degree in scenic design with a pre-medical concentration.

Other finalists in the category were Julia Rutland, Model High School, daughter of Jud and Pam Rutland; and Unity Christian School’s Meera Patel, daughter of Buffy and Suresh Patel. Both received $500 awards.

Three finalists were selected to receive $500 scholarships but no top award was presented in the Life Hero category.

Winners this year are Guillermo Ramirez-Sanchez, Rome High School, son of Virginia Sanchez; Seth Singleton, Coosa High School, son of Jennifer Singleton; and Tessa Carroll, Model High School, daughter of Jamie and Keith Bates.

“All these young heroes have persevered and succeeded despite tremendous life challenges. They are all winners, both the finalists and the other nominees,” Watkins said.

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