For the third year, the American Legion Post 26 has scoured local schools to honor some of Plant City’s greatest youth.
Ray Cliburn remembers the day he was told he had been selected as a recipient of the American Legion School Medal Award.
He was in ninth grade when the honor was first bestowed upon him and he worked hard in high school to receive the recognition again when he was in his senior year.
Though it was the 1950s when the piece of metal was first placed into his hand, he never forgot the experience and when he became involved in the Legion’s Plant City post he knew exactly where he wanted to give back. The problem was the Normal McLeod Post 26 didn’t have the award program up and running.
There weren’t any members championing its cause, so Cliburn took up the mantle and began to reach out to the schools to find eligible students.
“When I wanted to get involved I wanted to do something with this program,” Cliburn, chairman of the school medal program, said. “I still have my medals here in my house. They’re keepsakes. I wanted our Legion to offer that opportunity to local students. It was important to me, I think it will be important to these kids as well.”
The Legion reaches out to teachers at eight eastern Hillsborough County schools: Marshall Middle, Mulrennan Middle, Tomlin Middle, Turkey Creek Middle, Durant High, Plant City High, Strawberry Crest High and Simmons Career Center.
From those, school administrators and staff are asked to select two students, a boy and a girl, from that year’s graduating class that exemplify courage, honor, leadership, patriotism, scholarship and service. The Legion has long supported local youth receiving the education to help them learn of the “ideals of Americanism” that will help make them “citizens of the highest caliber.”
The medal the students receive is the highest honor awarded by the American Legion to youth. Right before school is released for the summer, Cliburn or another representative from the Legion comes to campus to present the award to the chosen youth in front of their peers.
The recipients receive a framed “Certificate of Distinguished Achievement” and a bronze medal.
The six varied categories mean the recipient may not be top of their class, or the greatest athlete, or have the most hours of community service. They are a well-rounded individual that excels in all aspects, something that the Legion believes shows true strength of character.
For more information visit centennial.legion.org/florida/post26 or call 813-752-8608.
The 2019 recipients of the American Legion Post 26’s school medal awards are:
Marshall Middle School
Adrian Gonzalez and Julia Jones
Mulrennan Middle School
Elian J. Tineo and Sarah B. Newcomb
Tomlin Middle School
Connor C. Stone and Katherine J. Hamilton
Turkey Creek Middle School
Tyler Dixon and Savanah Rice
Durant High School
Jackson Smith and Madison Hungerford
Plant City High School
Davis Clay Adams and Lily Grace Batley
Strawberry Crest High School
Lyle Baker and Taylor Johnson
Simmons Career Center
Austin Simmons and Mikki Carlson