Good choices by Fort Mill students rewarded

October 24, 2013 

— Special to the Fort Mill Times

Fourteen is a young age for making a comeback, but Nameer McCutcheon has done it.

When he moved to Fort Mill with his mom and little brother in 2011, escaping the urban gang culture that enveloped their lives, Nameer got off to a rocky start at Springfield Middle. He was angry. He got in fights. Because of discipline problems, he went to study at Fort Mill Academy.

Fortunately, Nameer had a strong team in his corner and eventually something clicked.

“If you see where he actually came from and some of the things he’s been through, it’s a complete change in attitude,” says Yolanda McCutcheon, Nameer’s mom. She said it took the family moving here for the changes to happen.

Nameer agrees.

“It’s different here. We don’t have to worry about a lot of drug dealing, violence, stores being robbed, gangs. Walking out in the streets wouldn’t have been safe before. I couldn’t walk outside at night. My father was in the gangs, so people would try to hurt me to get to him,” he says.

Nameer has reinvented himself. The Nation Ford ninth grader was awarded the grand prize at Fort Mill’s first Do The Right Thing ceremony of the school year held Thursday night in Town Council chambers.

Do The Right Thing, which is now a national program, began in Miami in the early 1990s when a student found a gun at school and turned it to school officials despite pressure from his peers to keep it, explains Lt. Ray Dixon of the Fort Mill Police Department, who has directed Fort Mill’s Do The Right Thing program since 2010. Now, the program to reward students for making positive choices is nation-wide.

Based on nominations from school resource officers, 10 Fort Mill middle and high school students are selected each quarter for recognition. Each of the top nine nominees and the Grand Prize winner receives a gift bag with a certificate, several gift cards, memberships, products and other items from local individual and business sponsors.

School Resource Officer Jonathan Gilbert, who wrote an essay about Nameer’s experience and nominated him for the award, attended the ceremony.

“I couldn’t think of a better turnaround story,” Gilbert said. “To see the path he could have ended up on, and the path he’s on now. I couldn’t be more proud as a resource officer, and as an adult, and as a friend.”

Nameer is thankful for the support he’s had from his peers, teachers and guidance counselors, and, especially from Officer Gilbert.

“When I would get mad and I talked to Officer Gilbert, it calmed me down. I learned when I’m in a situation, to be the bigger person, not to fight and escalate the situation. I walked away from a lot of situations that would have gotten me into trouble. He’s been a help for me. He’s been there,” he said.

In addition to the grand prize winner, nine other students were recognized Thursday night as the “Top Nine.”

Sixth graders Aiden Hasse and Logan Dillard and seventh grader Amy Dean were nominated from Fort Mill Middle School.

Amy and Aiden have taken initiative to help others in their art classes. Aiden made a donation of his own money to help some of his classmates pay for the clay they would use in class. Amy is “always polite, friendly and full of joy” and has a natural ability to draw in other students who may otherwise feel excluded, according to her nomination.

Logan has a “passion for people,” according to his teacher. On his first day of sixth grade, when a student who has special needs began getting overwhelmed and melting down in the hallway, Logan stopped to reassure him and help him find his class. Logan has since befriended the student and helps him when he gets overwhelmed during class, which is an “ever present help” to his teacher.

Eighth grader Amanda Horan was nominated from Banks Trail Middle. When she noticed a fight brewing in the hall, Amanda quietly went to her teacher to inform her. “Because of Amanda’s quick thinking and concern for others, the fight was mediated and never escalated into anything physical. Way to go, Amanda,” Resource Officer Gloria Graham said.

Nominees from Fort Mill High School were ninth grader Anika Myers, tenth graders Joe Sarratori and Ethan Teatsorth, and seniors Trent Chantemerle and Tyler Turner.

When a classmate had a seizure during Kelly Medley’s English class, varisity cheerleader Anika Myers quickly and calmly called the office for help while her teacher tended to the student.

“I am proud of the maturity she showed in a time of crisis. After the incident she told me how scared she was, but she remained very stoic during the emergency,” Medley wrote in her nomination.

When tenth grader Joe Sarratori found an iPod in the school parking lot and was unable to find the owner, he turned the device into the school office.

“This would have been an easy thing to keep and reprogram, but instead he turned it in. Joe has made some mistakes in the past as we all have, but his actions really impressed me. He truly is turning things around and this is a huge step in the right direction,” said the teacher who nominated him for the award.

Tenth grade Army ROTC student Ethan Teatsorth “has a love and respect for those different from him” and is consistently respectful and helpful, says Adrienne Bynum.

“Ethan recently volunteered to reprogram 30 non-working tablets we use in the classroom on a daily basis. Without the working use of these tablets, the classroom instruction and work had to be modified for three days. Ethan volunteered to correct the program error on his own time. He was able to organize the tablets and prepare them for future use in his class.”

When a coach left an iPad in the school gym overnight after practice, she couldn’t believe it when 12th grader Tyler Turner brought returned the device to her in her classroom the next day. Tyler is a good student with a great attitude, she says.

Senior Trent Chantemerle doesn’t let obstacles get in his way. Despite a learning disability, Trent is one of the top performers in his CP Government and Economics class, says teacher and football coach Frank Ambrose. Although Trent was not able to play football during the regular season last year, he kept trying and made the team again this year as a senior.

Trent inspires both his teammates and coaches, and was voted team captain for the home game against Broome.

“Trent has embraced his role and works each day to make our team better,” Ambrose wrote in his nomination.

Over $1,000 in prizes were awarded to the Do The Right Thing winners. Sponsors included Anne Springs Close Greenway, SC Bank and Trust, Chick Fil A, Digby’s Pizza, Shade Tree Auto, The Peach Stand, USA Tire, The American Legion, Family Trust Credit Union, John Young of Young’s Body Shop, Andy Burkholder of Carolina Upholstery, Barry Freeman and Rex and Angie Freeman of Freeman’s Body Shop, Fort Mill Area Chamber of Commerce Board members, Keith Sandvoss of Edward Jones Investments, The Fort Mill Lions Club, Catawba River Dentistry, J.J. Aim-Right Guns and Ammo, Troy Moss, and S.C. House District 26 Rep. Raye Felder.

Lt. Dixon looks forward do seeing great things from all the Do The Right Thing recipients. He expects Nameer to have a bright future in the community, and possibly even on the police force after he finishes school. “We want people like him. That’s exactly what we want,” he said.

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