The award is given to African-American students in middle school and high school who achieve a 3.0 or higher in the first two grading periods of the school year.
Students received encouragement and advice from author Areia Cobb during the ceremony.
“See young people, the truth is you will not always get a pat on the back for doing the right thing,” Cobb said. “Consider this your lifelong pat on the back.”
“The truth is each of you are awesome individuals,” Cobb said.
The speaker encouraged students to be positive and do the right thing whether other people encourage them or not
“The truth is you already have everything inside of you that you need to make every dream come true” Cobb said. “Everyone measures success differently, so it’s up to you to decide what success means to you.”
Cobb told students that their dreams would change as they grow and mature.
“What’s important is to stay true to yourself no matter what,” Cobb said.
Money does not define success, she said.
“What difference does the money make if you’re not happy in the process?” Cobb said.
A person’s definition of success is shaped by beliefs and what he or she considers important.
Cobb encouraged students to pursue their own dreams based on these beliefs, not the dream someone else has for them.
“Life is going to happen. You are going to veer off course, but remember ... that dream that you had ... you can still do and be whatever you want to be,” Cobb said.
This is the way things happened for Cobb.
In eighth grade, she knew she wanted to be an author. In high school she published a few poems, but then life seemed to be taking a different direction.
“It was 20 years later, when I saw my dream realized in November of last year when my first book was published,” Cobb said. “Life happened, but I’m still living my dream.”
Following the crowd and simply accepting the latest fad as what’s cool can deter students from living their dreams, according to Cobb.
“You all live in an era when originality seems to be stuck on repeat,” Cobb said.
She encouraged students to make their own decisions about what they enjoy.
“When you don’t like who you, are that’s when you change,” she said.
She also told students there will always be peers who do not cheer for them when they succeed.
“Someone may even say you’re a nerd,” Cobb said. “Tell them they’ll eat those words when they’re applying for a job at your company.”
Applying knowledge and working hard are keys to success, Cobb said.
“You chose to put the work in ... and that’s what I honor,” Cobb said.
Cobb gave students six parting phrases of wisdom. Among them were: “Learn how to tell the difference between a friend and an acquaintance,” “Your dreams are yours, and nobody will work as hard for it as you will,” “Your relationships are a reflection of you. Does your inner circle reflect who you want to be?” and “Learn to love ‘you’ and others will follow.”
She also encouraged students to act instead of simply reacting and to not let dwelling on the past keep them from moving forward.
Each public middle and high school was represented in the recipients with 74 from Cleveland High School, 69 from Cleveland Middle School, five from Lake Forest Middle School, 12 from Ocoee Middle School, 19 from bradley Central High School and 37 from Walker Valley High School.
The Bradley County Minister’s Fellowship established the Dream Keeper Award as a way to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The yearly event is held in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.