Ahoskie student wins statewide poster contest

Published 8:35 am Thursday, April 1, 2010

AHOSKIE – When Ahoskie Elementary School Art teacher Robin Copeland first looked at the work of 5th grader Larry Futrell, she knew it was special.

As things turned out, Copeland was correct in her assessment.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Futrell became the center of attention on the AES campus as officials from the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons and North Carolina Highway Patrol were on hand to formally announce that the 10-year-old was the 2010 state winner for the National Missing Children’s Poster Contest.

Following the contest theme – “Bringing our Missing Children Home” – Futrell submitted a colorful poster showing kids from around the world coming home together.

“When I saw Larry’s poster, I knew it was really, really good,” Copeland said. “I chose his work as our school winner and forwarded it to the state. I’m ecstatic that he won and wish him luck at the national competition.”

Each year the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons enlist 5th grader’s from across the state to participate in the annual poster contest. At Ahoskie Elementary School, 176 fifth graders took part in the event.

Making the presentation on behalf of the state were First Sergeant Steve Greene, Director of the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons, and Nona Everette who serves as Supervisor of the Center.

“We received information about the contest from Sgt. Mike Warren (of the Highway Patrol’s Troop A, District II office in Ahoskie),” Copeland said. “From that point forward it was about a two-to-three week project with my students.”

Futrell’s mother, Shelia Futrell of Ahoskie, was stunned to learn her son’s work was judged as the best of the best statewide.

“He didn’t say a lot about it…they worked on it during school hours so I didn’t know exactly what was going on until we were notified that he was the winner,” Mrs. Futrell said. “Of course I’m happy he won. I’m so proud of Larry.”

That pride also beamed through AES Principal Stan Warren.

“Larry is a model student here at Ahoskie Elementary,” Warren said. “He takes pride in everything he does, perhaps that is why he is on our Honor Roll for academic achievement. He is also active in Relay for Life, walking in memory of his father (the late Larry Futrell Sr.) who passed away a few years ago.”

While Principal Warren was thrilled to see one of his young students honored at a statewide level, the recognition that such an accomplishment brings to the entire school was of more importance.

“As you can see, Ahoskie Elementary is more than just teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, it’s about developing the whole child,” he noted. “Introducing our children to art is a critical component of that development. The work that Ms. Copeland does with our students is to be commended.”

But this day belonged to Larry Futrell. After being presented a trophy in recognition of his winning artwork during a brief ceremony held in the school’s gym, those in attendance moved outdoors for a photo session using two NC Highway Patrol cars as the backdrop. There, Sgt. Warren gave the youngster the thrill of a lifetime by placing his hat on his head and allowing Futrell to sit behind the wheel of his parked patrol vehicle, complete with the blue lights flashing. The smile on Futrell’s face was broader than the Grand Canyon. Sgt. Warren then handed the youngster a “sticker badge” – one proclaiming Futrell as an Honorary Highway Patrolman.

Upon exiting the car, First Sgt. Greene presented Futrell with two Highway Patrol caps and a DVD on the history of the Patrol.

“I’m also a recruiter for the Highway Patrol…we’re always looking for young talent and we may have found one right here in Larry Futrell,” Greene said.

Greene then encouraged the youngster to continue his good work in school and to always listen to what his mother had to say.

“And if you are interested in a career in law enforcement after you graduate from high school, may I recommend the North Carolina Highway Patrol,” the First Sgt. concluded.

Futrell’s entry will now go head-to-head with state winners from across the nation. The national winner will be announced in early May and will be invited to attend a May 25th ceremony in Washington, DC. That particular date represents National Missing Children’s Day.

Each year, more than 10,000 people are reported missing to the N.C. Center for Missing Persons. The problems of non-custodial abductions, runaways, stranger abductions, and missing adults transcend socio-economic, racial and ethnic boundaries. Reasons for these disappearances may include problems at home, health or mental issues, snags with the law, or a taste for adventure. Most eventually return or are found by law enforcement officers and do not involve foul play.

The N.C. Center for Missing Persons plays a key role in solving both missing children and missing adult cases by providing police and sheriff’s departments with technical assistance and serving as liaison between states and various governmental agencies.

For more information, visit the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety at www.nccrimecontrol.org.