The Rotary Club of Kilgore honored local student-athletes at their Wednesday meeting this week, praising the students’ achievements both on the field and in the classroom and rewarding them with honors and a check for $500.

“In 1986, we decided that it was time to start honoring young people who were athletic but who excelled at academics,” said Rotarian David Castles.

“So, we began this Scholar Athlete program and we’ve been doing it since. We honor young men and young ladies from Kilgore High School, Sabine High School and from Kilgore College.”

Rotary Secretary Kay Castles began the ceremony by presenting honors and awards to the young women nominated for the Scholar Athlete program. Each honoree was presented with a United States flag flown over the Texas Capitol, courtesy of U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert; a plaque; and a check for $500.

Jada Hood, a guard on the Kilgore College Lady Rangers basketball team, attended Roseville High in St. Paul, Minnesota, before coming to play for KC. She was accompanied by KC Lady Ranger Head Coach Addie Lees.

“Jada is ferocious on the basketball court, she’s after it, she’s a great leader,” Castles said.

Hood is also active in the KC Baptist Student Ministry, helps Coach Lees run summertime youth camps for girls and has a 3.8 GPA.

She plans to return to KC in the fall and continue playing for Lees.

Makenzie Cook, a volleyball and softball player at Sabine High School, lives in Gladewater. She is ranked in the top 10 percent of her class, is a member of the National Honor Society, the SHS Spanish Club, the FCA and participates in UIL.

She plans to attend UT Tyler in the fall to major in pre-med.

Emma Taylor is a Kilgore High School student who plays soccer, competes in track and cross-country, is a member of the KHS orchestra, KHS band, National Honor Society and also helps coach young soccer teams and enjoys playing the piano. She is ranked eighth in her class and plans to attend Tyler Junior College to continue playing soccer before attending UT Tyler to study nursing.

Tysen Banks, a guard for the KC Rangers basketball team, is from Memphis, Tennessee and recently returned from competing in the NJCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Championships, having won the regional tournament along with the KC Rangers, who had an 18-6 season.

Banks says he loves the atmosphere of the KC campus, where he assists Head Coach Brian Hoberecht with sports camps.

Ty Francisco, from Sabine High, has a 4.026 GPA, plays football and soccer for the Sabine Cardinals and competes in track. He’s a member of the Spanish Club, Anchor Club and has participated in community clean-ups. He plans to attend TJC to major in business.

Kyle Wheeler plays baseball at KHS, is ranked 12th in his class and is Hi-Stepper Manager. He plans to attend Texas A&M to major in biology with a minor in kinesiology.

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