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NEWS RELEASES 2000-01 :: FEBRUARY 9, 2001


An Alexander County middle school teacher and a medical school student at East Carolina Medical School were honored in January at the national Title I conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Their stories are featured in a national booklet published by the Title I federal program, Title I: A Program for Life, the 2001 Distinguished Graduates. Stephen Lee Gilchrist, a 1995 graduate of Southeast Halifax High School in Halifax County, and Eric Lynn Walker, a 1988 graduate of Alexander Central High School in Alexander County, were both honored for their accomplishments.

Title I, which began in 1965, is a national program which dedicates teachers and resources to helping disadvantaged children be successful. In North Carolina, $150 million is spent on the program, serving approximately 250,000 students. Title I is a program designed to help children who face educational obstacles to overcome these obstacles and achieve. Approximately 150 million children have been served by the Title I program since it began, and the program recognizes two distinguished Title I graduates from every state each year.

Distinguished Graduate Eric Lynn Walker said that Title I gave him extra help in reading at a time in his life when reading was a struggle. "With the help of dedicated teachers and parents, I became a better reader. As a result, I began to enjoy other subjects and school in general. The Title I program restored my confidence in reading and in myself."

Today, Walker is a middle school teacher who was named the 1999 East Junior High Teacher of the Year by his peers. He also is a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His own academic career has been distinguished. He graduated in the top 3 percent of his high school class and received the Charlotte Hornets Scholarship and the Mitchell Alumni Scholarship while a student at Mitchell Community College. At UNC-Charlotte, he received the Paul Douglas Scholarship for three years and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree magna cum laude.

Walker's advice to young students today is to set their goals high. "Do not view education and reading as a dreaded chore, but as a tool that will empower you to reach your goals."

North Carolina's other distinguished Title I graduate, Stephen Lee Gilchrist, offers similar advice. "My message to children in the Title I or Migrant Education Programs is to not be embarrassed about needing help. Take advantage of all available services and go for the stars by taking small steps at a time. Know and recognize your weaknesses, then work hard to overcome them and pursue your dreams."

Gilchrist credited his high school teachers with coaching him for academic success that has led him to his second year of medical school at East Carolina Medical School where he is the recipient of the distinguished Brody Scholarship.

Title I made it possible for Gilchrist to be in smaller classes and receive additional reading assistance in elementary school. This enabled Gilchrist to become a proficient reader early in life.

For more information on the Title I program in North Carolina, contact Bill McGrady at the NC Department of Public Instruction, 919.807.3957.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.