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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The power of a good name

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Each year at Williamsport Elementary School, three big awards are handed out to the graduating sixth graders -- top girl, top boy and the citizenship award. I'm not sure how long the awards have been being handed out at my alma mater, but it goes back far enough that the Jernagan family has benefitted from it more than once.

In 1983, my brother was chosen for the citizenship honor. Now, when I was in elementary school, I didn't quite understand what citizenship was. I knew that in second grade I got a low mark on my citizenship grade because I talked in class too much. Nothing much has changed.

As I've gotten older, though, I understand a lot more about citizenship, and I can tell you that my brother still earns that award every day. He conducts himself with integrity and genuine concern for others in all he does.

I also know I would be honored to have him as a coworker, as no one would work harder or be more willing to help out his colleagues. That's a good citizen to me.

In 1993, I was exiting the sixth grade when I was named top boy of the graduating class. I can only say I'm still proud of this accomplishment, as it showed I valued my education even at a relatively early age. I still remain proud of all my academic achievements from elementary school on through my bachelor's degree.

However, being an adult gives you a different perspective on it all, so when my nephew won co-top boy on Wednesday afternoon, it was the best of these three moments to me. (To be fair, I don't exactly remember my brother winning his award.)

I'm always told how much Jacob looks and acts like me. Apparently he also think and studies like me.

With Jacob earning the honor, it gave me a slightly different perspective. I saw the award through my parents' eyes. What pride they must have at seeing one of their progeny yet again among the honored few. Whether they'd admit it or not, they've helped set the tone for all three of us.

A man I respect very much once told me the most important gift your parents can give you is your good name. In Williamsport, being named Jernagan is certainly not a mark against you. At this point, our last name is on that plaque three times.

Besides this, Mom and Dad are respected, civically active members of the community.

I have two more nieces who will likely graduate from Williamsport, and even if neither ends up with her name on a plaque, people will still know: "She's a Jernagan. She comes from a good family."

If I've been some small part of that, then I'm extremely proud. As my son grows up in Greencastle, I hope he benefits from similar goodwill and respect.