Extra Credit: Whitehaven High scholarship money - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Extra Credit: Whitehaven High scholarship money

By Kym Clark - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The 2009 graduating class of Memphis City Schools made off with more than $143-million in scholarship money this year, and that's just within the top five scholarship earning schools.

Whitehaven High School was among the top of the heap, and if you think that scholarship money was made mostly through sports, you'd better think again. Walk the halls of the school and you'll find pictures and statistics from the school's exclusive 30+ Club made up of students who scored 30 or better on the ACT, or the Fortune 500 Club, which consists of students who have at least $100,000 in scholarships.

Club member and 2009 graduate Victoria Young won the most scholarship money at the school this year with $2.3 million.

"That includes the Gates Millenium scholarship," Young said, a prize that gives her a full ride to Duke University. She also won scholarships from dozens of other schools and organizations.

Young's earnings helped Whitehaven grads bring in a total of $15 million in scholarship money this year, which is also a school record.

According to math teacher and 30+ and Fortune 500 Clubs founder James Ralph Sparks, "Last year we had about $10.8 million. So our jump to $15.7 is a major surprise. But, it's kind of expected. We have some great kids and they work very, very hard."

According to Sparks, about 90 percent of that scholarship money came from members of his clubs.   Sparks says the key to all of it is the A.C.T.

"Dr. Hunter and I...worked together very close on A.C.T. and stressing the importance of it, and it's been an absolute gold mine because their A.C.T. scores have jumped up dramatically," Sparks said. "And that's despite the fact that, according to federal guidelines, more than half of Whitehaven's student body is considered 'at-risk.'"

Sparks is of an age and at a point in his career that he could easily retire and be proud of the number of students that he's helped. But he sees more work to be done and inspiration to be given.

"I want to work another year or two - probably two years. This 10th grade group we had are an incredible group of kids, and I'd just like to see what we can do with them. So, I have to stay around two more years to see what we can do with them," he said.

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