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Winners need support for Oklahoma trip

Students won state Beta Club awards

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Forest Hills Middle School students have secured their spot at the National Beta Club Convention in Oklahoma City. But there is one more hurdle some of the winners need to cross. They need the community’s financial support to get them there in June.

“It’s a chance of a lifetime for these kids,” said Ken Fontenot, history teacher and Gentlemen’s Agreement program mentor at Forest Hills Middle School.

In February, several Forest Hills students placed in multiple categories at the state-level competition in Greensboro. Five of the youth who need financial help placed third overall in robotics.

“I can’t believe our little project here has done so much for us,” Shaurya Bhatt said recently. “Let us go to Oklahoma, and we will compete against other people who are really smart and it will be a challenge for us.”

Others on the robotics team include Zavion Crawley, Jordan Scott, Junmo Lee and Ryan Jones.

“We built a robot that would run on solar energy,” Ryan said. “We put sensors on the bottom of it.”

They also created a charging station.

“It works without human direction,” Fontenot said. “They have the infrared light underneath that tracks the path around. The other one is light sensitive to follow directions either way.”

Zavion added that the robot captures sunlight, which serves as an energy source.

“Going to nationals will give us a chance to compete against others throughout the whole country and show that North Carolina is better,” Zavion said. “It would be very exciting for us.”

Fontenot said the robotics team will have to fine-tune its project so it will perform with the same flawlessness it did at the state level.

“The judges look at the build, look at the materials, look at the functionality on how all this works,” he added.

Fontenot said this was the best year for minority students from Forest Hills Middle in the state competition. They need to raise $7,000 to attend the national competition.

“We are trying to highlight these kids,” Fontenot said. “I think it would be a tragedy for the county if they weren’t able to represent our state now in Oklahoma City. These students have taken the personal leadership on their own initiative to represent Wilson County with no funding and excelled without the same resources other counties like Wake have in their backing.”

‘A CHANCE TO EXPRESS MY CREATIVITY’

Fontenot said the robotics team took hand-me-down materials and created a top-tier project.

“Robotics provides me with a chance to express my creativity,” Zavion said.

Jordan, who has played with Legos since he was a small child, said the win propels him toward his dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer.

“I like to build things hands-on,” Jordan said.

Four of the young men are also in the Gentleman’s Agreement — a community-led program that not only builds character but gives minority teens in Wilson County Schools a chance to volunteer through a variety of projects.

Eighth-grader Lily Ramos placed fourth in service learning showcase at the state level; and seventh-grader Aniya Cooper placed second in mathematics.

“Their horizons will be greatly expanded by this experience,” Fontenot said. He said the club needs to raise the $7,000 by the end of May. The National Junior Beta Convention will be held from June 15-18.

Fontenot, who is also the pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, said the church holds its annual Bibles and Badges Barbecue Throwdown each year where participants team up with the Wilson Police Department’s homicide unit to sell barbecue plates as a youth fundraiser. He said this year, the church will hold its fundraiser earlier in hopes of trying to raise money for the seven students who need help going to the National Beta Junior Convention.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

If you would like to provide financial support to help seven Forest Hills Middle School students travel to Oklahoma City for the National Junior Beta Convention, contact teacher Ken Fontenot at 252-237-2654 or kenneth.fontenot@wilsonschoolsnc.net or teacher Nikki Upchurch at 252-289-7296 or nikki.upchurch@wilsonschoolsnc.net.

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