An Eastern Kentucky University senior recently was honored in Orlando, Fla., with a scholarship at the National Education Association-Retired annual meeting.

Natalie Avant of Lexington received the $1,000 Jack Kinnaman Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded annually to deserving college students involved in the NEA Student Program on the local, state and national levels.

The scholarship was created in memory of Jack Kinnaman, vice president and former NEA-Retired Advisory Council member. Avant was one of only two students nationwide awarded the scholarship.

This is the second consecutive year that a Kentucky student has earned the Kinnaman Memorial Scholarship. Last year’s recipient, Malisa Russell of Spalding University, is now a middle school teacher in Bullitt County.

“I was very surprised because it was a national scholarship,” said Avant, who spent four days in Florida. “I feel very elated and fortunate. The financial support was wonderful, but the opportunity in Orlando was just not about receiving the check, there also was professional development for students and leadership opportunities. It was a very good experience.”

Avant, who applied for the scholarship through her membership in the Kentucky Education Association, is an elementary education major with an emphasis on mathematics. She hopes to eventually teach fourth or fifth grade in Fayette County or the surrounding area.

As president-elect of the EKU chapter of the NEA Student Program, she helped organize a project to donate Texas Instruments calculators to Clark-Moores Middle School.

“We solicited donations in order to buy 30 graphing calculators for the math their eighth-grade math department,” Avant said. “This all came during Hurricane Katrina so the eighth-graders collected donations and as a group we put together what we called ‘boxes of hope’ for young victims of the hurricane.”

Prior to studying at Eastern, Avant served on the Lexington police force for six years.

“I shifted from the police department into teaching law enforcement at the Department of Criminal Justice in Richmond,” she said. “So, I began to pursue an education degree really just to facilitate that career. Then, the first time I stepped into an elementary classroom I just knew that’s where it was. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Bryan Marshall can be reached at or 624-6691.

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