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JHS senior Winegard to attend UA

Robby Winegard didn’t know he’d like Jemison nearly as much as he did.

No child wants to leave an environment in which he’s established a circle of friends and become comfortable. But Winegard had to up and leave Baton Rouge, La., and head to Chilton County to live with his dad.

He’d enroll at Jemison High School and soon forget any apprehension he once had about the transition. Securing a position as one of his school’s four valedictorians certainly played a role in fogging up those memories.

Riding a daunting 4.0 grade point average and 31 on the ACT exam, Winegard will attend the University of Alabama on a full academic scholarship to study chemical engineering this fall.

“At the time, I didn’t want to move here,” he said. “But moving here with my dad and meeting the people in Jemison, it’s been a really good experience for me. I wouldn’t have rather gone anywhere else.”

Winegard is the son of Thomas Winegard and Rhonda Berger and the stepson of Cynthia Winegard, Thomas’s wife.

The Brandon, Fla., native was raised in Lakewell in the same state before he moved to Louisiana.

The Bayou Bengals never got a hold of his allegiance, but the Crimson Tide quickly sunk its teeth into the teen upon moving here. He quickly declares “Roll Tide!” if asked of his college sports leanings. He can’t wait to get to Tuscaloosa.

Already registered to take eight classes during his first semester, Winegard will drive right into his passion, chemistry. He first became interested in the chemical engineering major when he studied the science at JHS under Tommy Lenoir.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s just something that was easy. I had no problem with it. I just enjoyed it.”

Winegard also gives credit to Lenoir, whom he said made the subject more interesting than he initially perceived it to be. Along with Lenoir, pre-calculus teacher Nan Easterling and history teacher Kelly Smitherman were influential to Winegard’s pursuit of academic success.

They must have made quite an impression. Winegard scored his high ACT figure as a junior in high school. He hadn’t even taken advanced math.

Favorite subjects throughout his high school career included chemistry, math and history.

“I’ve always liked math, the challenge of it,” Winegard said. “I like learning about history so we don’t repeat it. I also like keeping up with politics. Even when I wasn’t able to vote, I kept up with everything.”

He’s a member of several honor societies, the scholar’s bowl and yearbook staff. He attends Mineral Springs Baptist Church and participates in the youth group activities whenever he can get time off from working at Piggly Wiggly in Jemison, where he does a little bit of everything, bagging, stocking and running the cash register.

He stays busy, but that’s the way he likes it. That’s how you become valedictorian, a goal he set for himself years ago. He was ecstatic when he heard the news.

“I wanted to challenge myself,” Winegard said. “I didn’t want to just be in the mix of high school. I wanted to stand out so colleges would notice me. There was no way I could go to this college without the scholarships. I maybe could do it, but it would be rough.”

Not to spoil the surprise, but Winegard will offer advice to his fellow students in a speech at tonight’s graduation at JHS. Through the words of English poet Robert Burns, he hopes to reassure his classmates that although tough times lie ahead after their four years spent in Jemison, it’s nothing they cannot handle if they work hard.

However tough it gets, Winegard is eager to attack the obstacles.

“I’m ready to move on to do bigger and better things with my life,” he said. “I’m ready to get out there and embrace college and see what all the hype is about. It’s been a good four years, but I’m ready for a change.”