PCHS’ Akers, Russell nominated for B’nai B’rith Academic and Achievement Award

Two Pulaski County High School seniors have been nominated for this year’s B’nai B’rith Athletic and Achievement Award Sponsored by the Roanoke Jewish Federation.

Pulaski County’s nominees are Alaina Akers, daughter of Anthony and Jody Akers of Pulaski and Luke Russell, son of Dean and Gina Russell of Dublin.

Alaina Akers

Four PCHS graduates have been past winners of the award. They include (2001) David Hale, (2003) Breanna Blevins, (2004) Matthew Tilley and (2005) Ryan Dean.

Nominees for the award are selected on the following basis: each to be given appropriate evaluation in considering the nominee:

Athletics (40%) including participation, recognition and awards.

Personal Life (20%) including service to the community, extra-curricular activities, in school: leadership, offices, positions, honors and hobbies and out of school: offices, positions, honors and hobbies.

Scholarship (40%) including scholastic grades, standing in class, scholastic awards, results in national testing and honor societies.

 

Born in 1951, the B’nai B’rith Athletic and Achievement Award was conceived by a small number of Roanoke’s Jewish community who were also members of the international organization known as B’nai B’rith.  The award was intended to recognize area male high school seniors

Luke Russell

who excelled in athletics, scholarship and citizenship.  As female high school students became more involved in interscholastic sports, they were added in 1976 as Award recipients.

The Award fit well with the mission of B’nai B’rith.  It is a worldwide Jewish organization that institutes and administers programs designed to promote social, educational and cultural betterment for both Jews and the public at large.  Notably, the first winner of the B’nai B’rith Athletic and Achievement Award in what was then a segregated Roanoke school system was a student from Addison High School.

Included among those who created the Award was Artie Levin.  He later became known to all who watched local television as Mr. Fitness.  Artie was also an avid community activist.  Hence, in 1997, the Artie Levin Personal Life Award was created in his memory.  That award underscores the essential contribution that community service makes to society.

Bob “Guts” McClelland was also instrumental. A well-known sportswriter for the Roanoke World-News and legendary sandlot football coach for whom the football field at Victory Stadium was later named, he played a vital role in publicizing the Award to the general public.  Through the combined efforts of these and the other founders of the Award and the work of those who followed, the B’nai B’rith Athletic and Achievement Award has become a preeminent honor for deserving high school seniors at the many high schools in and around the Roanoke and New River Valleys that nominate female and male seniors for the Award.

Through the years, a succession of dedicated individuals oversaw the management of the B’nai B’rith Athletic and Achievement Award.  This group recognized, however, that in order to make certain that the future of the Award is secure, steps should be taken to ensure its viability and continuation.  Therefore, in 2019, at their request, the Roanoke Jewish Federation agreed to assume responsibility for continuing the Award in the manner envisioned by its founders.  As the mission of the RJF is to promote and foster relations between the Jewish community and the community at large, it is also a natural fit.

Therefore, starting with the 70th anniversary year in which the B’nai B’rith Athletic and Achievement Award is presented, the name of the Award has been changed to the “B’nai B’rith Athletic and Achievement Award Sponsored by the Roanoke Jewish Federation.”  The RJF has committed itself to maintaining the Award in the manner in which it has always been given so that deserving high school seniors who excel in athletics, scholarship and citizenship will continue to be recognized and their names placed among the superstars who came before them.