Indian Trail Student Wins Scholastic All-Star Awards Contest
April 13, 2012 ~ Jumel Otiankouya, a seventh-grader at Indian Trail Middle School, is one of 12 students in the nation to be named a 2012 Scholastic All-Star Award winner.
The Scholastic All-Star Awards recognize the outstanding achievements of READ 180 and System 44 students who have overcome reading challenges to succeed in school. Otiankouya, who is originally from the Congo, will receive a plaque and $1,200 prize. In addition, the nominating teachers will receive $1,000 worth of Scholastic educational materials. Indian Trail READ 180 and System 44 teacher Audra McClelland nominated Otiankouya for the award.
"Jumel stands out in my room because of his eagerness to learn," McClelland said. "He never has a day that he doesn't want to be here. He genuinely loves school and wants to continue learning. He gives school 100 percent and never gives up because it might be hard. He wants to be here and work hard so he isn't just passing people out on the track, but he is also passing them up in the classroom. I can't think of another student more deserving of this award."
English Language Learner teacher Leah Yates wrote a letter of support for Jumel.
"Jumel Otiankouya is an excellent student and an exceptional kid," Yates wrote. "Born in the Congo amidst political unrest, Jumel experienced a life of poverty with limited options for a better future. When he moved to the United States a few years ago, he faced a new set of obstacles as he began learning English and adjusting to American culture.
"Despite these challenges, Jumel has kept a smile on his face and put one on every person he meets. He is a natural born leader who uses his positive influence to encourage peers both in and out of the classroom. He believes in the power of education, he believes in his teachers, and believes in himself. His progress is a result of diligence, self-advocacy, and a true passion for learning. Jumel's story is a true success story."
Since coming to the U.S., Jumel has become involved in several school clubs and athletic teams. He has played football and has participated in track and field. An amazing runner and long jumper, he hopes to go to college on an athletic or academic scholarship. If he doesn't make it as a professional athlete, Otiankouya said he would like to be a pilot.
Otiankouya started READ 180 in the sixth grade and said it helped him excel in learning.
"After that, I moved on to seventh grade and READ 180 still helped me a lot, but my teacher put me in a program called System 44," Otiankouya wrote in his award nomination form. "The 44 helped me saying the words right like I am supposed to. It also helped me with my writing. Before 44 everything was hard to do, but now it is more fun. Now the fun thing to do is 44 because it helps a lot – the more I do it, the better I get on it."
Principal Becky Vrbas said she is extremely proud of Jumel.
"Jumel is one of the hardest working students that I have had the opportunity to work with," Vrbas said. "He has the desire to improve on a daily basis and be the best he can be.
"His smiling face radiates in the hallways and he has a way of making new friends a daily activity. Not only has Jumel set his sights on improving his reading scores, he also is an incredible athlete. Running is a passion for him. We are so proud that Jumel is a true Indian Trail Cougar and displays Cougar pride to all he comes in contact with."
This is the second time a student at Indian Trail has received this award. Jesse Mattics received the honor in 2005. He was nominated by McClelland as well.