SCOTTVILLE — It was an emotional moment at Mason County Central Upper Elementary School Friday morning, when fifth-grader Hailie Smith was named this year’s recipient of the Courage of Gabe award for overcoming adversity.

According to Principal Kevin Kimes, the award is given each year to a student who “displays amazing amounts of courage and strength while staring adversity fiercely in the eye.”

That comment rings true for Smith, who has a visual impairment that has interfered with her confidence and performance in the past, Kimes said. However, during her time at MCC — and with the help of support staff from the West Shore Educational Service District, one-to-one aides in the classroom and increased parental involvement — Smith has made significant progress, and she was recognized for that progress in front of the student body, parents and teachers.

“In the last two years, this individual has grown more — socially, emotionally and academically — than any student I’ve been involved with,” Kimes said. “There exists in Hailie a confidence that, two years ago, you wouldn’t have seen.

He spoke about Smith’s courage and willingness to work to overcome challenges in every aspect of her life.

“She has had the courage to adapt and move through those challenges, and is now ready to move forward in the sixth grade,” Kimes said. “It’s my honor to present this award to a young person who’s faced giants — some challenges no one ever might know about; others, everyone can see.”

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