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Proffitt Honored By Cocke County Education Foundation
Photo by Duay O'Neil Cocke County native Benny Proffitt, founder of First Priority Inc., a nationwide Christian organization dedicated to teenagers, was named the third recipient of the Cocke County Education Foundation's "Celebrating Our Success" award at the group's annual banquet Thursday evening at Carson Springs Conference Center. With Proffitt, a Nashville resident, is his mother, Wilma Proffitt.
By: Duay O'Neil
Source: The Newport Plain Talk
NEWPORT-Benny Proffitt credited his parents and grandparents for their "investment in him" during his keynote address at Thursday night's "Celebrating Our Success" banquet, hosted by the Cocke County Education Foundation. "Without their love and support, I could not have become what I am today," Proffitt said. Proffitt, now a Nashville resident, was named the Foundation's third recipient of its "Celebrating Our Success" award, following earlier honorees Judge J. Kenneth Porter and Dr. Kenneth Olden. "I am thankful for my family, my church and my community for pointing me in the right direction," Proffitt said. A 1968 Cocke County High School graduate, Proffitt later earned degrees from Belmont College and Southwestern Theological Seminary. His career includes a short time teaching and coaching at his high school alma mater in the 1970s. A few years ago, he founded First Priority, a Christian-based youth organization, which now is found in all 50 states. Additionally he has traveled to several countries outside the United States in his Christian work. During his comments Thursday night, Proffitt emphasized the need for adult supervision of young people. "If we don't reach the next generation and impact them," said Proffitt, "someone else will, very often with values and morals which are bad." Proffitt also said that three things impact a young person's life-the people around them, their education and the choices they make. "Peer pressure is not always a bad thing," Proffitt said, "as long as it's the right kind of peer pressure. "My challenge to you," ended Proffitt, "is to support this organization," referring to the Cocke County Education Foundation. "Say, 'I want to make a difference,'" Proffitt continued. "Cities and communities must come together and strategically plan to reach out to and raise young people the right way. If you don't, someone else will." Among Proffitt's family in attendance were his wife, Marilou, their son, Joey, and grandson, Isaac, along with his mother, brother and two sisters. In introducing Proffitt, Olden, who has returned to full-time research as the Yerby Visiting Professor at Harvard School of Health, said, "I'm pleased to be home. I have talked with Benny and I can tell you that nothing I'm going to say will be an adequate description of this man. His accomplishments should make all who call Cocke County home proud." Foundation president Dr. Rich Lloyd welcomed the crowd of more than 200 to the banquet, saying, "We're here to recognize people who have made significant contributions to society. We're celebrating something good. We're here to recognize and give thanks for their accomplishments." Tommy Bible, Foundation treasurer, presented a brief PowerPoint program outlining the Foundation's history. According to Bible, the Cocke County Education Foundation was established in August 1991 by the Cocke County Board of Education, but did not become active until 2001. Since then, among the Foundation's accomplishments have been the establishment of the following scholarships: R.J. Tucker Memorial, Hal Cates, Alex Fancher Memorial, Adam Williams Memorial, Larry Blazer, Cocke County Leadership, Yvonne Graham Memorial and Tenasee Club. The Foundation also serves as the Educational Committee for Cocke County's Three-Star Program and funds the local Imagination Library for Cocke County's pre-schoolers.