His writing skills earned Port St. Joe seventh-grader Josh Butts four years of college.
Turned out his proof reading skills didn’t hurt.
Butts was awarded a 2+2 Florida scholarship last week, entitling him to four years college tuition courtesy of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.
And given the circumstances that paved the way to recognition in front of the Gulf County School Board, it was a celebration that might not have happened.
Butts was one of two seventh-graders in Ruby Kox’s English class who undertook writing an essay concerning a Florida governor who had swayed the state in significant ways.
The essays for the contest sponsored by Florida Prepaid College Foundation were due last October. Knox knew at least two of her students would have an interest and the talent – Butts and Chance Pittman.
When winners were announced in January, Pittman learned he had won the 2+2 scholarship, which entitles a student to two years at a Florida junior college followed by two years at a Florida university.
When Pittman’s plaque arrived at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, however, Butts and others noticed the name imprinted.
Knox and Principal Jeremy Knapp did some investigating in Tallahassee with the foundation.
Turns out the essays by Pittman and Butts were sent to different judges for scoring.
The judges sent them back with identical scores – a tie.
“We would never have known if not for the plaque,” Butts said.
When the results came back to the folks in charge of the contest, selecting one as the scholarship winner seemed tacky so the decision was made to award two scholarship packages.
Somehow in preparing the plaques and distributing awards to the various counties in the region, the paperwork for Butts ended up buried in a pile on a secretary’s desk and the plaque emerged as the only indication Butts had a winning essay.
“It was a screw-up but it was a wonderful screw-up,” Knox said. “It turned out fabulous. Josh is a good writer and a good student. So is Chance. I knew those two would do a great job.”
And, so, two months after Pittman had his day in the spotlight, it was Butts’ turn.
Butts wrote about former Gov. Jeb Bush and his education initiatives.
Speak to Butts for a few moments, and it is understandable that Bush would resonate with a young man who enjoys his studies.
“I chose him because of his education plan,” Butts said. “I like school. I want good grades.
“We were one of the bottom states in education and he brought it to the top. He had a six-part plan. It’s important to be at the top. I can say I live here and in Florida I am part of one of the top education systems.”
Butts said he loves to write, tapping into what he called his “creative mind” and soaking in research and building a “narrative”, two key parts of the essay process.
And that he turned that love of writing into a scholarship and lessening the future financial burden on his parents Karen and Chris, who after all, have five other children sprouting through Gulf County Schools, is pure gravy.
“It feels great,” Butts said. “I know I can go to college. I can have the experience of going to college and it helps out my mom and dad.”
In college, the love of writing may have to take second place. Butts said he hopes to be a high school math teacher – if his dream of professional baseball doesn’t pan out, which Butts freely admits is a long-shot at best.
“I really like writing, reading and language,” Butts said. “But I really love math.”