STEWARTSVILLE, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon visited the Stewartsville C-2 School District Thursday morning to applaud the school’s academic excellence and for giving its students an opportunity to earn an A-plus scholarship.

At an assembly, Mr. Nixon told the crowded gymnasium that 118 Missouri high schools, including Stewartsville, recently had received A-plus designations. He added that 99 percent of Missouri’s public high school students now can earn scholarships under the program.

“This is a tremendous milestone in our effort to put a college education within reach of more Missouri families. I thank everybody here for helping to get to that degree,” he told the students, staff and community members.

The governor said the state’s commitment to education doesn’t stop with the A-plus program. His budget for fiscal year 2014 includes more than $100 million in additional funding for K-12 classrooms. It also adds $17 million to early childhood education and a four percent increase in higher education funding.

“Education is the best economic development tool there is,” Mr. Nixon said. “The Stewartsville school district is an outstanding example of what is possible when talented teachers, dedicated administrators and successful policies come together to ensure the students have the opportunity to succeed.”

After his speech, the governor shot a few free throws with Ty Friend, a junior and member of the school’s basketball team. Ty said he was a bit nervous shooting baskets with the governor, but was excited to be a part of the first class at his school to take advantage of the A-plus scholarship next year.

“I think it’s really good, because it gives a lot of people the opportunity to go to college who would not get the opportunity. I’m really happy we get to bring it here,” he said.

Charity Page, another junior, said she also is excited to be able to take advantage of the scholarship next year. She hopes to use it to study art.

“I plan to go to a cool art college, and we don’t have a whole bunch of money to spend at my house. So I really want to use it,” Charity said.

Chris Gagnon, school principal, said the governor’s visit was a great thing for the school as well as the community. He couldn’t remember when a governor has ever visited the small Northwest Missouri school and town.

The A-plus program provides a huge opportunity for many students, Mr. Gagnon noted, adding, “I’m excited about it and the kids are excited about it.”

The program allows Missouri students to earn a scholarship that covers the tuition costs and academic fees for two years at any public community college or technical school in the state. To be eligible, students must meet academic, conduct and attendance standards, and perform 50 hours of community service.

Alonzo Weston can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.

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