Fair, 82°
Weather sponsored by:
Sponsored by:

W.E. Cherry Elementary Principal Angela Whiddon, 6th-grader Arya Seker win state acclaim

Pair selected for Florida TaxWatch’s Principal Leadership, Florida Prepaid College Scholarship awards

Don Coble, don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 2/8/24

ORANGE PARK – Moments after Arya Seker and her parents accepted the paperwork from Florida TaxWatch for a two-year college scholarship, the sixth-grader quickly and quietly slipped away from …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

W.E. Cherry Elementary Principal Angela Whiddon, 6th-grader Arya Seker win state acclaim

Pair selected for Florida TaxWatch’s Principal Leadership, Florida Prepaid College Scholarship awards


Posted

ORANGE PARK – Moments after Arya Seker and her parents accepted the paperwork from Florida TaxWatch for a two-year college scholarship, the sixth-grader quickly and quietly slipped away from the W.E. Cherry Elementry media center to rejoin her classmates.

Her tears said more than enough.

Florida TaxWatch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit and taxpayer research institute, was at the school Thursday to honor Angela Whiddon with one of five Principal Leadership Awards for elementary schools.

“My name is on the plaque, but if it weren’t for all of you, we wouldn’t be recognized,” Whiddon said.

One of the dividends of the award was Whiddon’s ability to select a student for a Florida Prepaid College Scholarship.

She said Arya was an easy choice.

Whiddon said Arya’s family came from Turkey in 2018, and no one spoke English. She struggled to learn the language and customs but quickly adjusted and won a spot on the Student Council and the girls’ basketball team. She was also the only student in the district to have a perfect score on the state-mandated Progress Monitoring 1 Florida Assessment of Student Thinking test at the beginning of the school year. The test is given to pre-kindergarten through 10th-grade students to gauge their progress at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. Arya was already at the end-of-the-year level when school started.

“When she got here, she struggled like anyone who doesn’t speak English,” Whiddon said. “She also helps other students catch up on their work if they miss school. She’s always trying to help.”

Arya fought between tears and nerves when she accepted her award.

“Thank you,” she said modestly. “I am grateful.”

She left the podium to get an extended hug from her mother, Songul.

Superintendent David Broskie had an excellent reason to be thrilled. Middleburg Elementary Principal Becky Wilkerson won the award last year, and she selected Kimberlee Dimorier for the scholarship. Middleburg was one of three elementary schools chosen in the state.

“I sure don’t get to do a lot of glamorous things, but this is one,” he said. “What a story. (Whiddon) is different than many people. She’s an out-of-the-box thinker. W.E. Cherry is a great place for kids. It ain’t broke, so we ain’t going to change it.”

Arya was also one of Broskie’s picks for October’s Super Student of the Month.

Florida TaxWatch uses data-driven information for high-risk students, not nominations, in its selection process. The Clay district has won two of eight awards in the last two years.

“This is huge,” said School Board Member Mary Bolla said. “This means so much to our district. I wasn’t a bit surprised (Whiddon) got the award. She changed the dynamics of this school.”

Bolla then turned to Arya and asked her years from now to return to W.E. Cherry Elementary.

Arya smiled and nodded her head.