Winners announced for Toriano “Tito” Baker Scholarship

Published 10:30 am Friday, May 17, 2024

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The Toriano “Tito” Baker Scholarship winners were announced Tuesday, May 14. Two students, one from each Lowndes County Public School’s high school, were honored with the annual award in Baker’s honor.

Rachel Ray, a senior at The Calhoun School, and Shar’dajai Harris, a senior at Central High School in Hayneville, each received the $300 scholarships during a Lowndes County Board of Education meeting.

According to Lowndes County Public Schools Superintendent Samita Jeter, Baker passed away on May 13, 2021. After his death, family members launched the scholarship effort to honor his legacy as a coach and educator.

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“He was a principal at Lowndes Middle School,” Jeter said. “He was also an assistant principal, athletic director and coach.”

Baker not only served as a principal, classroom instructor, coach and athletic director within Lowndes County Public Schools, but was also an avid and record setting basketball player himself, leaving an impressive legacy upon the Faulkner University Eagles basketball team.

During his time with the Eagles, Baker was a three-time First Team All-SSC (Sunshine State Conference) player, a two-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Honorable Mention All-American, and the second leading scorer in program history. 

With 1,753 career points, Baker ranks among the highest totals in the men’s Eagles basketball history. He was inducted into the Faulkner Athletics Hall of Fame as the first member of the Class of 2021.

Baker earned his Master of Education in education leadership from Alabama State University. He returned home to dedicate his life to coaching and education, winning more than 200 games as a high school basketball coach including multiple Final-Four appearances and a state championship at Central in 2002.

In his biography, Baker discussed his deep roots within Lowndes County as well as his mission to develop a culture of greatness within the county’s schools.

“I am a proud native of Lowndes County, where I graduated from The Calhoun High School. I am honored to work in the community where I was raised as an educator,” Baker wrote. “It has been my desire to set the expectation for our children to be a beacon of light that shines brightly amongst other school districts. It has always been my belief that hard work pays off.”

Baker’s mother, Juanita Baker Pickett, and aunt, Josie Baker McReynolds, were on hand to deliver the awards.

Pickett said the scholarships keep Baker’s legacy going among the students who were so important to him.

“He cared so much for those kids,” she said. “For myself, this is a reassurance that I am doing something to honor my child because he was such a beautiful person. I thank the Lord for giving him to me.”