Published 12:02 am Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Andalusia senior Sarah Atkinson won Key Club's Sandy Nininger Award at the district convention. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Andalusia senior Sarah Atkinson won Key Club’s Sandy Nininger Award at the district convention. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Sarah Atkinson is a servant by nature.

Atkinson’s service in Andalusia High School’s Key Club helped her claim the club’s top state award at the district convention in March.

Atkinson was named the Sandy Nininger Award recipient and the Andalusia High School senior said she was pretty surprised when they called her name.

“I knew I had applied for other scholarships and Darious Davis got one, and that was awesome,” Atkinson said. “We were all sitting at this big round table eating dinner and they were going to announce the scholarships. They announced the Sandy Nininger Award and I was like, ‘I didn’t apply for that and I don’t know what that is.’

“I was listening to everything they were saying and the whole story and thinking, ‘Wow, that is awesome,’” she said. “Then, they called my name, and I was like ‘what?’”

Atkinson said the award is named after a man who lived in Alabama, went through high school as a normal kid, but was really smart.

“He went to West Point (the United States Military Academy) and was a war hero at the Battle of Bataan,” she said. “He did a bunch of stuff for Key Club before he retired from the armed forces. It’s a big honor, and I didn’t know much about it until I won it.”

In order to win the award, Atkinson had to be nominated by someone from the AHS club, and the club sponsor and school principal has to sign a form saying that the nominee does a lot for the club.

“I was so honored and excited to get that award,” she said.

What also helped her earn the award is doing the best of her ability and just being a stand out member in the club, Atkinson said.

When asked why she thinks she got the award, Atkinson said it all goes back to her nature as a servant.

“I’ve been in Key Club all four years,” she said. “My brother (Josh) was in Key Club and he was a senior when I was a freshman. He said, ‘hey, you need to be in Key Club. It’s really cool.’

“I signed up for it freshman year, and that was when (former AHS tennis) coach (Perry) Dillard was the sponsor. He got us all involved with the coastal clean up and electronics recycling program, and different projects,” she said. “It was awesome. I love serving people. That’s what opened my servant’s heart — the key that opened my servant’s heart.”

In addition to Key Club, Atkinson is involved in several other clubs at AHS, including serving as the class president of Student Government Association, vice president of the Spanish club, she volunteers with Meredith’s Miracles and plays tennis on the varsity girls team, among others.

Other than being surprised at receiving the award, Atkinson said she was “astonished.”

“It kind of made it feel like all of the hard work throughout the years paid off,” she said. “I would’ve enjoyed Key Club just as much if I hadn’t gotten it. It was just awesome to get it.”

She will be attending Auburn University in the fall and is majoring in public relations and communications. Additionally, Atkinson said she is also aiming to get her master’s degree in education or counseling.

Atkinson is the daughter of Toby and Janet Atkinson of Andalusia.