For local Clinton High School students Luke Swartz and Skyler Simmons, being a part of the National BETA Club isn’t only about academics — it’s about being a part of a nationally recognized organization and demonstrating skills other than just their intelligence.
For the last 80 years, the National BETA Club has been the largest independent, non-profit youth organization in America. The club works to prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s leader in many different aspects of life. Both Luke and Skyler recently attended the national convention in New Orleans, La., bringing home awards for their achievements in pencil drawing and spelling.
Skyler, who is the daughter of Ralph Simmons Jr. and Michelle Gainey, recently graduated from Clinton High School and has plans to attend Campbell University in the fall. Even as a young child, Skyler said she loved sitting at her grandmother’s house with a crayon or marker in her hand, drawing and coloring to pass time.
“As I got older, I began to draw more and realized it was something I truly have a passion for,” Skyler shared. “I just never imagined my drawings would be good enough to win anything.”
But they did. Skyler placed first among all BETA organizations that were attending the convention and participating in the pencil drawing category. In all, she said, there were about 20 students in her division. She qualified to compete in nationals when she placed second at the state level in Greensboro in the spring.
“I walked into this big room and in the middle of the table was a bunch of junk,” Skyler recalled of her New Orleans adventure. “We had two hours to draw what we could, making sure we included the particular items they mentioned.”
Skyler admitted she was nervous as she sat there among the other talented artists.
“There were less people there and the competition was more competitive,” Skyler shared. “It was tougher for me to compete against the best of the best.”
One of the features that had to be drawn as part of the pencil work, she pointed out, was a hand. Surprisingly, Skyler said hands, fingers and nails aren’t her best drawing points.
“I was truly shocked when they said I placed first,” she attested. “From looking at all the other work in the room, I never imagined I would place first.”
Luke has a bit of a different talent — the soon-to-be freshman at East Carolina University has a knack for spelling. During the national convention, Luke placed fifth in the spelling portion of competition. This, he said, was out of about 30 different people.
“I’m a librarian’s kid,” Luke acknowledged. “It’s kinda my thing to be a good speller. It has always come natural to me.”
As a young child, Luke said he spent a great deal of time reading. That, he said, is how he was able to learn words.
“It is just an instinct for me,” he noted. “There is no practice for me. It’s just something I am good at and I can do.”
Luke is the son of Jeff and Sarah Swartz.
The National Beta Club promotes the idea of good academics, but also focuses on character, service and leadership among its students. Skyler and Luke are just two of the more than 450,000 members who belong to the 8,750 clubs nationally and internationally.
In addition to Skyler and Luke, the Sampson Middle School BETA Club attended the convention to participate in the talent division. While the group placed at the state level in the spring, they didn’t place at the national level in New Orleans.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.