Flint Hills awards PAISD Outstanding Students $12K
By Chelsea Henderson
The News staff writer
A select group of Memorial High School seniors got a pre-graduation commencement speech at Beau Reve last week.
Denny Wiseman, vice president and site manager for Flint Hills Resources’ Port Arthur chemical plant, warned them of the dangers waiting to throw the students “off their game” — but said they would prevail if only they remained true to themselves, to God and to carrying the title of “outstanding.”
The eight seniors honored at the Flint Hills Resources’ “Outstanding Student Program” scholarship dinner May 7 each walked away with a $1,500 check, a professional photo of themselves used in a Flint Hills advertisement, an “Outstanding Student” medal and — most personal to Wiseman — a copy of “The Science of Success,” written by Koch Industries co-owner and CEO Charles Koch and bookmarked to the “guiding principles” of all Koch companies.
“It’s an honor to be here to recognize what you’ve achieved,” Wiseman said. “When you go out from here, there will be opportunities abounding to take you off your game, and your parents won’t be on your hip anymore. So what do you do in all that confusion? Stay the course. Do not forget that you are an Outstanding Student.”
Wiseman encouraged the scholarship recipients — seniors Kiara Roach, Reyes Cabrera, Jesus Cardenas, Rafael Ceja, Arnaldo Garcia, Gloria Jaramillo, Imani Porterie and Tam Dan Vu Tran — to honor their God-given gifts, always work hard, find their passion, create a vision and pursue it relentlessly and to find someone dependable that will give frank advice and open their mind when they come to a block in the road.
“Using God’s gift and working hard is a good start,” Wiseman said, “but passion is what gets you to persevere when you face failure. Passion motivates you to the roads of insight. When you fail — and you will fail — passion motivates you with hope. Your vision will take you to achieve a result that is currently not being reached. It takes you where you haven’t been before. But you have to find that person to guide you when you get stuck — someone you can depend on to be in the struggle with you.”
Wiseman said many of those “dependable” people, always looking out for the students’ best interests, were at the restaurant. He thanked the families for providing a balance of encouragement that pushed the students farther than they could have made it on their own.
“When you’re trying to do something, you need that encouragement,” he said. “It can come in the form of a hug, it could be a gentle push on the back or it could be a kick in the behind. Some of these people may be sitting with you tonight, but always look for that person.”
PAISD Superintendent Mark Porterie said the students — his own daughter, Imani, included in the group of eight — needed to rely on their own hard work and dedication, as well as faith in God.
“You are terrific. You are successful, smart, beautiful, talented. But always be grateful, because people do not have to be nice to you. Be humble when someone reaches out to you, because they don’t have to,” Porterie said. “None of us are entitled to anything. You are not entitled to a job, entitled to more money, entitled to be promoted. It is up to hard work and dedication — you have to work for these things.
“Never forget to pray, because he will open doors for you that you will never be able to open for yourself. We’ll stay prayed up. If you need us from now until forever, we are here for you — we will always be here for you. Parents, thank you for everything you have done from pre-k to the 12th grade. We’re here for you, too.”
Raymond Polk, PAISD Career and Technology Education director, gave the students their last bit of advice before they were awarded their $1,500 scholarships.
“Out of 1,700 students we have at Memorial High School, you are special. Someone felt as though you are outstanding,” Polk said. “As you move throughout your career or your education, I want you to keep three things in mind — words, time and opportunity. Be careful what you say, because you can’t take it back. Use your time wisely, not foolishly. And take every opportunity you are given.
“But as much as those three things will help you, remember there are only three things in life that are constant — the father, the son and the holy spirit. Keep the lord and God in your life, in your prayers and in your heart. If you do that, you can’t help but be successful.”
The Outstanding Student Program is in its third year. Wiseman said Flint Hills Resources decided to begin a program specifically for Port Arthur ISD to promote careers in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and to invest “in our future with our youth.”