Education Foundation Alters Top 50 Academic Scholar Celebration Format


After listening to feedback from the community, the Education Foundation decided to alter the format of the annual Top 50 Academic Scholar Celebration, which will offer an invitation-only reception at 5 p.m. and a public program at 6 p.m. April 22 at the Center for the Performing Arts (PAC).

The Top 50 Celebration honors the top 10 graduates of each high school and one educator of their choosing who has made a significant impact on both their educational career and personal life.

“In the past, we have always done a very formal banquet and it’s really been an amazing event,” Lynn Wilkie, executive director of the Education Foundation, said. “There was a plated dinner where waiters came and served, so it was very high-class. There was also a lot of dignitaries such as city councilmen, mayors, principals and superintendents.”

Wilkie said the night has been very successful in the past, however, many students, teachers and community members said they would have preferred for it to be less exclusive.

“We realized that although the Top 50 banquet was one of the best events of the year, it was also one of the best kept secrets,” Wilkie said. “Unless you were one of the selected educators or top 50 seniors, you may not have even known about this event.”

A committee explored how they could celebrate the top scholars and educators and decided to host a formal reception for the educator, their guest, the scholar and their parents. Thereafter, a program will be open to everyone in the main auditorium.

“The decision was well thought out, but not difficult to make,” Wilkie said. “This is a huge deal and we want everyone near and dear to (the scholars and honored teachers) to be able to celebrate this moment with us.”

The new format will not only allow for more relatives and friends to be a part of the event, but it will also better praise students who have consistent academic strength.

“This is basically like academic signing day to some extent,” senior and salutatorian David Li said. “I feel like most of the time the high-achieving kids aren’t promoted as much because most funding goes toward sports. The foundation of schools is all about academics achieving success for the future. The changes will broaden the horizon of how students should be motivated to try harder in academics.”

In addition to the traditional photo book, there will also be a handout given to all attendees, which will include a list of the students and teachers.

“We also wanted to do something special to honor those teachers who are chosen year after year,” Wilkie said. “Next to each teacher’s name, there will be a number of stars which will represent the times they have been invited.”

Chemistry teacher Corey Nieman has been selected six times, so he will have that many stars beside his name. Additionally, he was a scholar in his graduating year, so he said this is especially meaningful.

“I have loved the banquet each year, but I think it is exciting to try things a different way” he said. “Instead of having a private event, we get to celebrate these scholars in front of possibly thousands.”

A comedy group based out of Fort Worth, Four Day Weekend, will host the public portion of the event.

“Our hope is that by having a comedy group, the night will be less boring than expected at an academic event,” Wilkie said. “Additionally, there is a special surprise performance planned for the introduction of each student. I can’t say what it is, but I encourage everyone to come because it will be such a great night.”