LAURINBURG — The impact that youth athletic programs make on the lives of young people on the verge of entering adulthood is part of the foundation of the Optimist Club of Laurinburg.
Two Scotland High School graduates, Jake Martin and Ashlyn Dial, each earned a $500 Phillip Hayes Memorial Scholarship. Hayes, who died in 2010, was a long-time supporter of Optimist Club sports.
In applying for the Optimist scholarships, Martin and Dial wrote about their experiences in the Optimist baseball and softball programs.
Martin started playing at Optimist Ballpark at seven years old and played every year until he aged out, he said.
“These childhood memories are some of my best,” Martin wrote. “As I have grown and reflected back on those year, I am grateful my parents allowed me to participate in this wonderful organization. I didn’t know it at the time but while I was at the ballpark having fun, I was also developing skills that will last a lifetime.”
Martin said he learned how to deal with defeat and success, about teamwork and about cooperation.
Martin also wrote about the man for whom the scholarship is named.
“When I think of Optimist, I can’t help but think of the man who was there every game,” Martin wrote. “You could always find him in the concession stand or in the office. If you ever needed anything or if you left your favorite glove, bat or bag at the field, he was there to help. He served thousands of kids every year and gave back to the community.”
Martin will attend UNC-Charlotte this fall.
In writing about her experience playing Optimist Club baseball, Dial said she played for five years and has carried forward lessons learned.
“The greatest lesson I gained from my years in the Laurinburg Optimist program is commitment. I learned the importance of being at every practice and game,” Dial wrote. “I knew that my coaches and teammates depended on me.”
That prepared her for playing travel softball and varsity softball, she said.
“Travel softball and high school varsity softball requires a dedication and commitment from each player that must be learned early,” Dial wrote. “I appreciate the many hours spent at Optimist Park learning this valuable lesson.”
Dial said the lessons she learned through playing baseball at Optimist Park have carried through to other areas of her life, sharpening her competitive edge and reinforcing the importance of teamwork.
“My parents, along with many coaches, have taught me that academics come first. I have worked hard to be successful in the classroom. I have disciplined myself to take college level courses and maintain a high grade point average, all while juggling sports and part-time employment.
Dial will attend St. Andrews University in the fall on a softball scholarship and plans to major in special education.
Essay contestants were given the topic “Lead by Example: Reality or Fiction?”
The two winners were also awarded prizes; first place winner Seth Hatchell won $125; and second place winner Gwen’dea Rogers won $100.
Seth Hatchell of Laurinburg, and a graduate of Fayetteville Christian School, finished first in the essay contest. Leading by example is the only correct way to lead, he wrote.
Hatchell included a quote from author John C. Maxwell as an example. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
He also included an example from one of his former Optimist coaches.
“I learned early on when I began playing the great game of baseball at the Optimist Club in my hometown that the best and most successful coaches showed concern for their players,” Hatchell wrote. “One of the best coaches that I had took us out for ice cream several times during the season. It was not about the fact that he spent money on us but the fact that he took time to get to know us outside the game of baseball. His focus was making us better people through the game of baseball.”
Hatchell will attend Liberty University and although he is undecided on a career, he is considering physical therapy.
Rogers will start her senior year at Scotland High School this year and has plans to attend either Winston-Salem State University or The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and study art education.
Her essay on leading by example cautioned other teenagers to look for more positive role models in society rather than reality stars, celebrity teens and athletes who have “used their fame to gain the wrong attention on social media — making them a social light to young teens.”
Rogers said teens must realize their own worth, separate of what they see on television and on social media.
“Leading by example is true but it all starts with you,” Rogers wrote. “Starting with a little self pick me up check. That means you have to realize your worth and realize that just because you don’t do and act like the celebrities or your peers at school or you don’t have like millions of likes on your social sites or have a fancy phone doesn’t stop you from being you.”
She also used a John C. Maxwell quote in her essay: “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-506-3169.