By Joshua Winata
The Cove Herald
The Masons of Mount Hiram Lodge proved that hard work pays off by honoring students from the Copperas Cove Independent School District with $1,000 scholarships.
The annual Mirabeau B. Lamar Awards of Excellence and Personal Achivement recognize two students and one educator for their outstanding contributions to the school and community. The lodge has awarded the medals annually for the last 10 years.
“Masonry is not a secret organization as some people believe. We come together for a common purpose of improving ourselves and in making our communities a better place to live,” said Lamar Medal Award Coordinator James Powell.
This year, seniors Jena DiSimoni, 17, and Zachary Kerzee, 18, and Hettie Halsted Elementary School principal Jon Brown were the recipients of the honor.
DiSimoni is planning on attending The University of Texas at Arlington and hopes to pursue nursing or physical therapy at Texas Women’s University. She served as president of the Health Occupations Students of America at Copperas Cove High School and participated in the National Youth Leadership Forum in Medicine. DiSimoni was also involved with the National History Fair and National Honor Society, and she was a band section leader.
“I have a lot of dreams and goals I want to accomplish, and the support of this organization is really going to help those come true,” DiSimoni said.
Kerzee has plans to pursue a degree in religious studies at McMurry University in Abilene, which has awarded him several scholarships for achievement and citizenship. Kerzee has been very involved in Copperas Cove High School athletics, playing for the Varsity football team as well as track and field and wrestling. He was on the yearbook staff and in drama productions with both the high school and the community theater, and he served as National Honor Society treasurer. While at Copperas Cove, Kerzee also conducted independent study, resulting in an original novel. Kerzee is ranked third in his graduating class of 375.
“It’s just a real honor, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity. This will really help me out a lot,” Kerzee said.
Brown received his medal at a surprise presentation at his school on April 27 but was also recognized at Tuesday’s ceremony. Brown has served as a teacher and an administrator with CCISD for 22 years, and he is working the state and city government to improve the quality of student safety at schools and other child care facilities. His colleagues praised him for his generous and humble attitude, according to the nomination forms.
“I accept this on behalf of my school and on behalf of all those who deserve this more than I do,” Brown said.
Powell presented the history of Mason involvement in the development of the state’s public education system. Many of the founding fathers of Texas and its education system were Masons, and the schools founded by local lodges were the inspiration for the state of Texas’s educational work programs in late 1850s.
In Copperas Cove, as in many towns, the Masons would meet on the second floor of a two-story building and allowed a school to meet on the ground floor in the 1880s as the city’s public school system was just getting started.
“We at Mount Hiram Lodge still strongly support public schools, and that is why we honor outstanding citizens that help make our community, state and nation stronger,” Powell said.
Mirabeau B. Lamar, a Mason, is remembered as the father of public education in Texas for his vision for public schools. He served as the second president of the Republic of Texas and proposed a system of education that laid the foundation for the state’s school and university systems.
Recipients of the Lamar awards are determined by a Mason committee based on application forms and recommendations from CCISD superintendents.