FAIRMONT — Former University of North Carolina basketball player Justin Watts stood in front of the gathered crowd at the Fairmont Heritage Center Wednesday night composing his thoughts.
“You’re in an opportune position to change a lot of lives as an athlete,” he said. “You want to make sure you’re making the right decision every time.”
Watts spoke as a part of the Nokolma and Tyreke Day Scholarship Banquet, as a pair of Fairmont seniors were given $500 dollar scholarships to honor the late Tyreke Addison and Nokolma Hunt, who died in a car accident in 2012.
The issue was one close to Watts after he lost two friends in ninth grade the same way.
“We lost a life because of a bad decision,” he said. “Always try to stay focused and make sure you represent yourselves the way want your children to represent themselves.
“Try to be that guy that someones grandparents would want their kids looking up to.”
Multi-sport standout and future Division I football player Jarrod Neal was the recipient of one of the scholarships, and said it was a big honor for him.
“It means a lot because its coming from a foundation where two of my friends, their families fund it, so it means a lot,” Neal said. “It’s to honor two guys that almost everyone in this room looked up to. It’s not even about the money, it’s about those two.”
Christa Thorndyke was the other recipient.
“It a really huge honor,” she said. “I met Tyreke and Nokolma in the 10th grade and to receive an honor from their family, it’s just a great feeling to have.”
Thorndyke said the reason behind the award is to remember it is important to be a good role model for the community, much like Addison and Hunt were for Fairmont.
“To make sure you’re a good person,” Thorndyke said. “I mean, those two were great people, and the community remembers things like that.”
Nokolma’s mother,Vickie Hunt, attended the event and was pleased with how her son was being remembered.
“I said that I wouldn’t let him die out,” she said. “I would always let him live on no matter what it takes and it means the world to me that this is happening in the town of Fairmont.”
The meaning of the night was much more than just remembering the two but also working to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
“Our main message that we try to get out is that kids have to get serious about life and concentrate on things that are going to make them prosper in life,” said TDA7 Foundation president James Townsend. “To avoid the dangers that each teen faces and try to make good decisions on everything they do in life.”
The foundation’s banquet is something that Townsend is hoping will continue to grow.
“This will be an event that we will continue,” he said. “We are just asking for the support of the community. We’re young and we have room to grow but we’re not going to grow if we can’t get the support of the community.”
With that growth, Townsend said he is also hoping the amount they can give as scholarships will grow as well.
“We gave two $500 scholarships out tonight and we are hoping that the amount will grow and we can give more out to more students,” he said.