Before beginning the next chapter of their education, students selected as 2019 Angels of ’97 scholarship recipients were special guests at an annual dinner held late last month in their honor.
The students are the latest additions to the multi-generational Angels of ’97 “family” of scholars, a scholarship program made possible through a grassroots community effort to remember young lives lost by celebrating what others can achieve.
The scholarship program dates back to 1997 when it was started by grieving parents, friends and community members as a way to deal with the pain of a series of tragedies involving young people. During a span of less than two years, five students who would have been part of the North Mecklenburg High School graduating class of 1997 died.
Travis Childers died of complications from leukemia, and car accidents claimed the lives of sophomores Laura Barnette, Mandi Meador and Calvin Keziah. And during the Christmas-New Year's break from classes halfway through her senior year, Kancham Potts died in an out-of-town car accident.
That year, parents, family members, friends and fellow students hosted a community gathering – a spaghetti dinner – as a way to bring people together for shared grieving and remembrance. The money raised, about $5,000, was distributed through scholarships to seven members of the North Meck Class of 1997.
Since then, the Angels of ’97 organization has raised nearly $800,000 and presented scholarships to more than 220 high school graduates from throughout the north Mecklenburg area and beyond.
The annual fundraising spaghetti dinner and auction is held each year in March and the organization also sponsors a 5K every March as well as an annual golf tournament, scheduled this year on Sept. 16 at Birkdale Golf Course.
Another annual tradition is the dinner, where the latest scholarship recipients have the chance to meet members of the organization, including parents and siblings of the original “Angels” as well as community members who have helped the program expand.
The 2019 Angels of ’97 Memorial Scholarship recipients honored at the dinner, listed with their school, are:
• Satya Khurana, Zach Marre and Devan Stoeling, North Mecklenburg
• Julia Schwanz, Maddie Treon and Colby Hallman, Hough
• Hallie Sly and Lynnea Simmone Kerns, Hopewell
• MacKenzie Jamison, Mooresville
• Noah Alexander Merancas Middle College, CPCC
• Jocquelyn Popoff, SouthLake Christian
• Ashlynn Cook, Apex Friendship