Todd Why knew he had to change his actions, his high school grades and his life.
He has a 2-year-old son, Aiden, and a fiancee, Stephanie Garcia, counting on him.
Why, 18, went from being a fighting, trouble-making Dallastown Area High School freshman into a soon-to-be graduate who has earned the respect of teachers, officials and fellow students.
"I realized I needed to grow up and stop acting stupid and stop getting into fights," said Why, who plans to do automotive studies this fall at WyoTech campus in Blairsville, Indiana County.
Why was among 16 local students - mainly seniors - honored at the Turnaround Achievement Awards program Wednesday at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in York Township. The secondary students were from school districts in Adams and York counties.
The awards were created 17 years ago, according to Jim Plessinger, coordinator of the event, sponsored by the York Area Bowling Proprietors Association. The organization recognizes one student from each district who has managed to make a significant, positive change toward their life.
Of the students honored this year, seven - including Why - each received a $500 scholarship.
Stephanie, 17, also a senior at Dallastown Area High School, said she is proud of Why's turnaround accomplishments. She said she plans to study nursing at Harrisburg Area Community College and is glad that she and Why are working toward a better future for their son.
"I consider myself lucky," Stephanie said. "I'm thankful (Why) stuck around and grew up as he did." During the awards, attendees heard from teachers and school officials who spoke of how students became academically and socially successful by overcoming behavioral, anger and character issues, failing grades, abuse, self-loathing and deaths of loved ones.
Jaime Ramirez, an 18-year-old Hanover High School student, was honored for his perseverance as he adjusted to life in America. Ramirez's family came to the U.S. from his native Mexico when he was 12, eventually moving to Hanover. He did not know English and planned to drop out of high school.
He is now bi-lingual, preparing to graduate and has helped to counsel another student in a similar situation. Ramirez said he plans to be either a barber or a mechanic.
"It was hard work to change, but now I have the respect of the school," Ramirez said. "If you have a dream, go for it."
Kelsey Hershey, 17, a senior at Spring Grove Area High School also received a $500 scholarship. She said she was a troubled student and turned around to become a better person after a 14-year-old friend died of cancer.
Kelsey said that after graduation, she will attend Penn State York to major in human development and family studies.
"I want to work with kids with cancer," she said.
-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at 505-5438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.