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From a fifth-grader to several high school seniors, 12 Buffalo students will be honored this weekend at the third annual Benjamin Banneker Awards of Excellence in Math and Science.

A scholarship luncheon is scheduled for noon to 2:30 p.m. today in the King Urban Life Center, 938 Genesee St. The speaker will be Dorothy Swearengen Strong, retired coordinator of the National Science Foundation's Urban Systemic Initiative and director of math for the Chicago public schools. Sponsors of the awards are the Metro Buffalo Alliance of Black School Educators and Ciminelli Construction Cos.

The awards are named for Benjamin Banneker, born to a freed slave in 1731, who was a farmer, scholar, mathematical wizard and astronomer. The program's goal is to encourage minority students in math and the sciences.

This year's honorees are:

Briesha Bell, a sixth-grader at Mount St. Joseph Academy, who was the top student in grades four and five. She has overcome a birth weight of only two pounds and a doctor's prognosis that a brain bleed probably would leave her developmentally delayed. With her most recent final averages of 96 in science and 91 in math, Briesha aspires to become a doctor.

Hung Dang, scheduled to be the valedictorian for Hutchinson-Central Technical High School's Class of 2005, who got a jump start on college by completing two courses from Daemen College during his junior year. During his years at Hutch-Tech, his final math and science grades have been described as "truly extraordinary," including a 100 in advanced algebra.

Daniel Imani Felder, a sixth-grader at Kipp Sankofa Charter School, who has maintained an average in the high 90s every quarter for the past year. Beyond the classroom, he is involved at Mount Olive Baptist Church, where he serves an an usher and sings in the choir. Every other Saturday, he also participates in Boy Scouts.

Tracey L. Gaines, a senior at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, who follows in the footsteps of her sisters, Carmen and Stephanie. When she graduates, Tracey will have 11 credits in science -- only three are required -- and four in advanced math. During the 2003-04 school year, her final average was 93.1 in Regents physics and 97 in advanced chemistry.

Brian Harper, a junior at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, who is among the school's top 10 students and has the highest averages in math and science. He has a particular interest in biochemical technology. He has tutored neighborhood youths in math and is active in engineering organizations for minorities. Brian aspires to be a doctor.

La-Trice Lambert, a junior at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, who has maintained an average of at least 90 throughout her school years. She scored a 100 on her final chemistry exam this past school year and a 99 on her geometry exam. La-Trice intends to enroll in a premedicine program in college, with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.

Ahmad Richardson, a sixth-grader at Kipp Sankofa Charter School, who maintains one of the highest averages in science -- a 97 final average last year -- among his classmates. One of his teachers noted he always is willing to undertake any challenge presented to him. Musically inclined, Ahmad plays the keyboard and drums at True Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Xaiver Riley, a fifth-grader at Westminster Community Charter School, who is the youngest of this year's honorees. A family friend notes he is excited and eager to share what he's learned in science classes, and his math grades have been in the upper 90s. Xaiver also is very artistic and recently started taking formal art classes to enhance his natural ability.

Saleh Sayad, a senior at Grover Cleveland High School, who is at the top of his class. He is the winner of a Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award and was a top scorer for the Buffalo Public High School Mathematics League last year. The Yemen native represented his school at the Arab Students Conference in 2002. He wants to go to medical school.

Donald Silmon, an eighth-grader at Highgate Heights Elementary School, who finished the last school year with a 97 final average in math and a 99 in science. A constant presence on the honor roll, he said, "My parents have always pushed me to do my best." This past summer, Donald attended a six-week higher achievement program at Canisius High School.

Latasha Young, an eighth-grader at Stanton Academy No. 31, who finished last year with a 93 average in math and a 98 in science. Latasha has been a member of the school's Leaders in Training program, chorus and the girls' basketball team. The assistant principal describes her as "a responsible, self-motivated student with an unlimited amount of potential."

Sabalena Zeqharr, a sophomore at Burgard Comprehensive High School, finished last year with a 99 average in algebra. She also had a 98 average in intermediate algebra and a 90 in Regents biology. The science department chairman said, "Sabalena is the type of student who has a zest for doing a great job. She is one of the first to enter the class and one of the last to leave."


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