Ten Exceptional Youth Receive Tom and Bonnie Lawyer West Las Vegas Library Scholar Awards - JUNE 2014

Ten Exceptional Youth Receive Tom and Bonnie Lawyer West Las Vegas Library Scholar Awards
From left to right: Dariyantay Johnson, Tiffani Russell, David Martin Vaquero, Amallely Gutierrez, Daniela Flores-Bello, Juan Gonzalez, Mariah Armstrong, and Avree Walker, with Bonnie and Tom Lawyer. Not pictured are Nika Sewell and Jarrell Bell.


Ten local students received thousand dollar scholar awards at the West Las Vegas Library for their exceptional academic achievements and civic contributions. Mariah Armstrong, Jarrell Bell, Daniela Flores-Bello, Juan Gonzales, Darriyante "Tay" Johnson, Amallely Gutierrez, Tiffani Russell, Nika Sewell, David Martin Vaquero and Avree Walker each received a Tom and Bonnie Lawyer West Las Vegas Scholar Award presented by Tom Lawyer, President of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Foundation.

Tom Lawyer founded the award program when he received a presentation from West Las Vegas Library staff at a Foundation meeting in early 2010. "What struck me most was that this library was much more than books - it was a learning place, an achievement zone," he says. "I noticed that these library staff viewed their work as a 'calling,' not just a job. The West Las Vegas Library is a true community hub, one of the reasons the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District was given the National Medal for Library and Museum Service this year."

In honor of this exceptional staff spirit, Tom and his wife Bonnie launched the award program in 2010 with a pledge to fund five scholar awards for five years to local youth pursuing higher education. In the past five years 36 scholar awards have been given, with the Lawyers stepping up far beyond their original commitment. "Every year, we see an abundance of talented local applicants with big dreams," says Lawyer, "and we found a way to fund more awards."

This year's award winners are no exception. Many are the first to graduate high school in their families. Their dreams are big: Four of the five are headed towards careers in medicine, with one - Nika Sewell - making her first trip to work with medical clinics in Kenya. Several are developing as community leaders and spokespeople. Juan Gonzalez sits as Senator in UNLV Student Government for the College of Business.

The lines of Edgar Guest's poem "See it Through," recited by Darriyante "Tay" Johnson who stood proudly by his grandmother, resonated among students in the crowd, all of whom have overcome family or economic adversity and yet have exercised great tenacity to be where they are today.

All have not only made tremendous strides in their personal development, but have made immense community contributions. Avree Walker, the only four-time winner of the award, continues to work with the Performing and Visual Arts Camp, an exemplary community collaboration between the West Las Vegas Library and the City of Las Vegas' Art Center and Doolittle Community Center. Walker's talent as a dancer was recognized by Alvin Ailey, but his path has kept him local and engaged not only in his professional career, but in helping other local youth find a path forward via dance and the arts.