By Gerri Miller
Stanhope Elmore High School (SEHS) Principal Ewell Fuller couldn’t be prouder of this year’s Joe Sewell and John Sewell Memorial Award Winners. It is the first time that the school has captured the top two awards as well as a third major award winner.
“We win!” Fuller said concerning his students winning the top awards. “It was almost a clean sweep. I haven’t heard back yet, but I want to know if we are the only school to ever have three in one night.”
The top two award winners were Connor Bradford and Laurel Bacon. Bradford was the Boys Overall Joe Sewell Award and John Sewell Scholarship Winner and Bacon was the Girls Overall Joe Sewell Award and John Sewell Scholarship Winner. Both students received $3,000 scholarships.
Another Stanhope senior, Kalynn McElrath, was the Girls Church, Community, and Character Award Winner and the winner of a $1,000 scholarship.
Fuller is going into his third year as Principal of SEHS. As the largest school in the county, he has had a lot to learn, but is excited for the future and continuing the positive trends academically, athletically, and across the board.
“I guess elated is a good word. To be honest with you though I was not surprised,” Fuller said. “These kids…their work ethic and character… are impeccable. So, this is an opportunity for all of our students. Our winners and nominees were surrounded by good teachers and parents. They were very focused.”
Fuller said the winners have put up an example for other students to follow.
Bradford was the team captain for the Mustangs football team and will attend Huntingdon College next year where he will be part of the football team there. So far, he has racked up $16,000 in both academic and athletic scholarships. He was voted Blue Gray All American and Most Outstanding Wide Receiver and was the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Not only was he a great football player, but he was active in numerous school and church activities. He was is in Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, and the National Honor Society. He was also a peer tutor. At Coosada Baptist Church, he was a fifth grade Sunday School teacher, a volunteer with children’s church, and worked with Disciple Now and mission projects.
He is the son of Brian Bradford and Nicole Hunter.
As for winning the award, Bradford said he wants people to look at him and see that it has nothing to do with him, but with Christ’s influence on his life.
“Things as small as this don’t matter in the long run on things,” he said. “I’m very thankful, but I can only hope that this can show people that if you do the right thing and left glorifying Jesus be the sole influence in your life, you will reap the harvest one day. He loves and cares about every single one of us and deserves all the glory!”
Bacon was a Mustangs cheerleader and will be attending Auburn University where she will major in pre-pharmacy. She was a UCA All-American National Cheerleading Championship Qualifier and was also active in many school, church, and community activities.
She was active in Mu Alpha Theta, the Recycling Club, Junior Civitan, Show Choir, Drama Cast and was president of Baptist Health Explorers. In the community, she worked with Christ Community Café and the Elmore County Humane Shelter. At Millbrook First United Methodist Church, she was a volunteer in the nursery, children’s church, and Vacation Bible School. She was also on the Praise and Worship Team.
She is the daughter of Will and Leigh Bacon.
Bacon said she is proud to be able to represent the values and expectations of the award. “This award is such an honor to receive. The name Joe Sewell is well known and respected in the community,” she said. “I had always hoped to be able to provide a positive Christian example of an athlete to my school and community.”
She also said, she is “forever thankful” to her parents, coaches, the Joe Sewell Board and her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for helping make that dream possible.
McElrath was a member of the Beta Club and she was in Junior Civitan. She kept plenty of focus on her academics as well, helping her gain membership to Mu Alpha Theta and the National Honor Society. She was also an Alabama Girls State attendant.
McElrath was also a varsity cheerleader for the Mustangs. After spending her career leading students and fans on the sidelines of football and basketball games, she was named a Universal Cheerleaders Association All-American and she was a qualifier for the National Cheerleading Championship.
Fuller said having these winners at Stanhope is an opportunity to share with other students that these kids walked the same halls as them. “They have the same teachers, administrators and pretty much the same faculty and staff and they need to take advantage of it,” he said. “There are no excuses.”
The Joe Sewell and John Sewell Memorial Award is the most prestigious award an athlete in Elmore County can win. Named after an outstanding baseball player who held two Major League Baseball records, it also honors Sewell’s integrity, character, and devotion to his community.
A legend in Elmore County, Sewell was known to take bats, gloves, and balls to the local community center so that kids would not miss out on learning the game of baseball. Aside from just learning the sport he also was adamant about the children of Elmore County learning the discipline, conviction, and sportsmanship that naturally follows
The award also pays tribute to John Sewell, Joe’s cousin, who was dedicated to being a positive influence on young people
Each year, one male and one female senior from all the schools are chosen for the top honor, which includes a $3,000 scholarship. Male and female category winners are also selected for academics, athletics, leadership and church, community and character with each student receiving a $1,000 scholarship. The award is the only program of its kind in the River Region that presents scholarship money in conjunction with awards.
From the Joe Sewell Award Facebook Page:
Once again, we would like to thank everyone who attended the 16th Annual Joe Sewell Memorial Award Banquet (either in person or via live stream). We had an extraordinary group of students this year and we are so proud of their accomplishments. Also, a big congratulations to our award winners:
Girls Leadership Award- Sinclair Cole, Tallassee High School
Boys Leadership Award- Miles Broom, Holtville High School
Girls Academic Award- Kaitlyn Roberts, Edgewood Academy
Boys Academic Award- Isaac Stubbs, Wetumpka High School
Girls Church, Community, and Character Award- Kalynn McElrath, Stanhope Elmore High School
Boys Church, Community, and Character Award- Bobby Baker, Tallassee High School
Girls Athletic Award- Abigail Chavers, New Life Christian Academy
Boys Athletic Award- Jackson Hand, Holtville High School
Girls Overall Joe Sewell Award and John Sewell Scholarship Winner- Laurel Bacon, Stanhope Elmore High School
Boys Overall Joe Sewell Award and John Sewell Scholarship Winner- Conner Bradford, Stanhope Elmore High School