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Three area students from three different schools.

All with unique backgrounds, but yet sharing one thing in common: namely, the September Community Character Trait of truthfulness.

Edisto High School's Deanna Zeigler, William J. Clark Middle School's Jasmine Ryant and Elloree High School's Joseff Goodwin were cited as the best embodiment of the character trait Webster's Dictionary defines as "disposed to being sincere in action, character and utterance."

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President Dede Blewer said the three were chosen to serve as an "outstanding role model for the rest our youth."

"We've got many exceptional young people in our community," Blewer said. "To know these students have been true to themselves, their goals and their commitments is an example for us all to follow."

Though having "no heroic stories" to relate about Deanna Zeigler, Edisto High School math teacher Merriell Smith describes her as one who demonstrates the qualities of truthfulness in the day-to-day events in life.

"One of her redeeming qualities is her stick-with-it-ness, particularly in athletics," Smith said. "She has always been a gifted student but has really found her niche in cross country and has stuck with it."

Excelling in cross country is just one of Zeigler's talents. She is also involved in cheerleading, student government and remains in the top of her class academically.

While striving to be the best she can be in her various activities, Zeigler has an attitude and determination that reach beyond herself, Smith said.

"I have never heard her say a bad thing about another person, and she can often be found helping others," Smith said. "She always has a positive attitude when she talks about other people and consistently carries herself in a truthful and open manner."

An eighth-grader at W.J. Clark Middle, Jasmine Ryant is the "epitome of truthfulness," according to school staff.

An honor student in the Magnet Program, a member of the National Junior Honor Society, captain of the cheerleading team and a top vocalist for the W.J. Clark Chorus, Ryant strives to remain active in school events.

"She is a very open, loving, and thoughtful person and even her facial expressions demonstrate the characteristic of truthfulness as she relates and shares with others," said school guidance counselor Cynthia Funderburg.

When asked about Jasmine's performance in class, one of her teachers simply stated, "her honest nature brings about a willingness for me to assist with whatever she needs help with."

William J. Clark Middle school fifth-grade administrator Karen Montgomery said discussions with school guidance counselor Funderburg fortified Ryant as the logical choice for truthfulness.

"Her name just popped up as someone you would want in a truthful person," Montgomery said. "She is an outstanding student in academics and a leader in many ways. She is an just an excellent student and a real good kid."

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Elloree High School senior Joseff Goodwin said he was honored yet humbled when first told about his selection for the character trait of truthfulness.

"My mom taught me about morals and the need to always keep my head to the sky acknowledging God as the first person in my life," Goodwin said. "She deserves most of the credit to who I am today."

Goodwin currently presides as Student Council president, Student Improvement Council secretary and sings in the Elloree High School chorus. He also utilizes his talents outside of school as a solo singer and musician in his church.

Principal Parrie Hook said Goodwin embodies a trait not always easy to find among high school students.

"He is a very honest, caring young man who will tell the truth no matter the result," Hook said. "It is definitely something we would like to see all high school children emulate."

Three students from different backgrounds selected out of thousands. For many it may seem like a lost and much-sought-after trait, but for three area students, truthfulness has become the very essence of their lives.

T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski can be reached by e-mail at gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or by calling 803-533-5551.

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