Major League baseball is in limbo. All high school spring sports were cancelled across the Commonwealth of Virginia due to COVID-19. The fireworks displays at Rivers Edge and the Salem Fair won’t take place.
For the Roanoke Elks Lodge No. 197, B.P.O. Elks, it was a different story.
The show must go on.
Monday evening, the 42nd annual Elks Valedictorian Scholarship Night took center stage, albeit in a smarty crafted reconfiguration to adhere to present social guidelines. The scholarship presentations and valedictorian recognitions from 17 high schools continued a tradition of culminating the high school careers and acknowledging many top achievers.
While the roughly 200 valedictorians representing the smartest of the smart were not physically present and the award presentation to scholarship recipients was moved outdoors to accommodate social distancing, the Elks hit a home run in handing out scholarship awards to students recognized for academic achievement and community involvement.
In all, Lodge 197 handed out eight $1,000 scholarships to local high school students, plus it also garnered four awards from the State of Virginia Elks and one from the National Elks going to students from the Elks Lodge 197 region.
The eight local $1,000 winners included Josh Britts and Sarah Knight (Franklin County High School), Adnan Jasarevic (Cave Spring), Patrick Daly (North Cross), Ashley Jennings and Camryn Dermott (Hidden Valley), Kami Klinski (William Byrd) and Maddie Parrish (Salem).
State scholarship winners included Brandon Fan (Blacksburg High School), Mathew Johnson and Michael Johnson (Northside) and Evelyn Laherty (William Byrd). The National Elks winner was Serena Fick of Salem High School.
Keynote speaker and Chairman of the Elks Scholarship Committee, Dave Ross, pointed out the Elks Valedictorian Scholarship Night is one of the longest running awards nights in the region for graduating high school seniors. During its forty-two year run, speakers have included mayors, congressmen, athletic stars from the area and community leaders.
“This is very satisfying,” Ross, who has been associated with picking the winners for 29 years, noted prior to Monday’s presentations. “Many scholarships center solely around athletics, but the Elks scholarship winners you see here tonight have achieved the highest honor because of what these young men and women have also achieved academic-wise in the classroom, but also because they were involved in various aspects of the community. Looking back at all the winners over the years, many have gone on to very successful professional careers and being noted for their high character and integrity in the community.”
“This year we couldn’t get the large number of valedictorians together because of social distancing and schools being closed, but we figured out a way the scholarship winners could be here,” Ross continued. “We have a wide variety of winners this year. If we have an Elk member, whether a mom, dad, or grandparent, who has a graduating senior in their family, they are given first consideration. When we began this 42 years ago winners were limited to Roanoke City and Roanoke County. Today, it has expanded to the list of 17 public and private schools throughout the region.”
High schools that are part of that 17 include Cave Spring, Franklin County, Craig County, Faith Christian, Glenvar, Hidden Valley, James River, Lord Botetourt, North Cross, Northside, Patrick Henry, Roanoke Catholic, Roanoke Valley Christian School, Salem, Staunton River, William Byrd and William Fleming.
Maddie Parish was all smiles Monday night. The Salem graduate will be attending Virginia Western this fall. “I found out about this about three weeks ago and was very surprised,” Parish noted. “It’s great to receive the scholarship and I’ll be using it for books. I’d like to thank the Elks for everything.”
Franklin County’s Josh Britts, who also plans to attend Virginia Western before transferring to Virginia Tech, echoed Parish’s thoughts. Britts was a cameraman on the CW5 High School Playback Game of the Week for the past two years that includes Ross as the play-by-play commentator.
“It was a huge surprise,” Britts said. “I’ve only known for a few days and will plan on saving the money for college expenses. I want to thank the Elks for the opportunity to receive this award.”
Adnan Jasarevic was a memoir of the Cave Spring Class 3 state championship basketball team. He will attend Patrick Henry Community College this fall. “This is pretty cool,”Jasarevic said.” I’ll save the money for college expenses. I’d like to thank the Elks for this great dinner and award.”