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UCHS’s Trent White among seniors selected for Roan Scholars

The Roan Scholars Leadership Program has selected eight high school seniors for the incoming Roan Class of 2025. Those students will join 24 returning Roan Scholars at East Tennessee State University this fall as part of the prestigious four-year scholarship program. “This year’s selection process was unlike any other we’ve conducted, with all interviews and other activities being online,” said Roan Director Scott Jeffress. “The result was the same, though: another outstanding class of talented young leaders. These students are already making a positive impact on our region.”

The Roan Scholars Leadership Program empowers students to be leaders of excellence who will positively impact the ETSU campus, our region, and the world. Each class is chosen from high school seniors nominated by eligible schools in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina. The Roan offers four years of unique, out-of-the-classroom experiences and opportunities designed to challenge and inspire students to grow and develop as leaders. The scholarship also includes a financial award for tuition and fees, room and board, and books. Members of the Roan Class of 2025 were selected from among nearly 100 nominees in 27 counties. These students have initiated projects that address pressing needs in local communities, been recognized for their academic achievement and competed at state, national, and even international levels in multiple sports. They have served as student representatives for school boards and statewide organizations, undertaken entrepreneurial endeavors, and served their communities.

The newest Roan Scholars are:

UCHS senior Trent White

• Trent White (Unicoi County High School; Erwin): Trent White’s passion for government started early – when he was a young kid attending county commission meetings. Seeking to inspire a similar passion in others, he founded and serves as chairman of the Unicoi County Teenage Republicans. He has volunteered for local and statewide campaigns and was a finalist for the United States Senate Youth Program. He has held numerous high school leadership roles, including serving as president of Student Council, National Honors Society, and Key Club. Mock trial, drama club, and tennis are also among Trent’s activities. “One of my favorite things about Trent is his go-getter spirit,” says Jessie Sutherland, a college access counselor with The Ayers Foundation at Trent’s high school. “If he sees a need, and the solution doesn’t exist yet, he creates the solution.”

• Pate Anglin (Homeschool; Johnson City): Pate Anglin has spoken to hundreds of young people across Tennessee about the dangers of tobacco use. Working with TNSTRONG, a youth-led, statewide organization committed to educating youth about the harmful effects of tobacco usage, Pate created and implemented a 6-week anti-drug curriculum for elementary and middle school students. Captain of the University School varsity soccer team, Pate has also pursued a variety of entrepreneurial projects and was named in 2019 to the Appalachian Highlands Twenty Under 20. He has served his community on the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition and by delivering food boxes monthly to local public housing. Pate brings “forward-thinking to our TNSTRONG Teen Ambassador program” says Julie Meyer, Program Coordinator for Youth and Community Engagement with the Tennessee Department of Health. He is “an impressive young man and is committed to achieving above and beyond.”

• Morgan Blazer (Cocke County High School; Parrottsville): “I want to play a role in helping the community that has helped me so much,” says Morgan Blazer. She is a three-sport athlete, serving as captain for her high school varsity cross-country, track, and swim teams. She has received all-conference honors in cross-country and track – and qualified for state championships in both swimming and cross country. Morgan is president of her school’s Key Club, a three-year member of Beta Club, and has volunteered with Tennova Healthcare in Newport. Crystal McGaha, a school counselor at Cocke County High School, says that Morgan’s peers “look up to her as a calm, yet confident leader” and “find her upbeat and motivating – one who leads by example.”

• Katie Jones (Chuckey Doak High School; Greeneville): “Every team should have someone to bring light and positivity towards different situations,” says Katie Jones – and Katie seeks to be that person. She is the four-year vice president of her class at Chuckey Doak High School, where she helped plan the school’s 60th anniversary celebration. She played travel softball for many years and is team captain of her high school team. Ranked first in her class, she was nominated as a delegate for the Congress of Future Medical Leaders and is pursuing the Volunteer State Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish. “Katie has shown commitment to self-development and desire to expand her horizons intellectually, socially, academically, and otherwise,” says Shana Russell, a school counselor at Chuckey Doak. “In the classroom, the halls, and in other areas, [Katie] displays friendship, respect, compassion, leadership, and character.”

• Abby Simpson (Volunteer High School; Church Hill): Abby Simpson’s clogging shoes have danced across the country and around the world, earning her numerous national titles and accolades. She is a four-year member of her high school’s Key Club and currently serves as its president. Abby has created and led two service projects in her community: the ‘Warm Hands, Warm Hearts’ program, which provides cold weather items to shelters in her community, and ‘Community Cans’ (formerly ‘Cans for Covid’), which seeks to address food insecurity caused by the pandemic. “Abby will succeed at whatever she sets her mind to doing. She is willing to work hard for what she wants and needs,” says Sherry Cox, one of Abby’s dance mentors. “She has a great work ethic and will strive for greatness.”

• Riley Skaggs (Sullivan East High School; Bluff City): “I am a learner,” says Riley Skaggs, who embraces the idea that “there are always new things to learn.” She is president of the Sullivan East Student Council and a three-sport athlete in cross-country, track, and swimming. A member of Bristol Youth Leadership, she has volunteered with the TechGYRLS after-school program and also represented Sullivan County at the Student Congress on Policies in Education, working with students across the state to discuss and address educational policy. “Everything that Riley does in life is an extension of her desire to be a leader,” says David Ryan Williamson, head cross-country and track coach at Sullivan East. “That desire coupled with her high character makes her someone worth following.” • Shaina Thompson (Happy Valley High School; Elizabethton): “Teach Love” is a motto that Shaina Thompson holds dear. She is committed to fostering communities where people feel loved, valued, and respected. Shaina has served on Work Crew with Young Life, played on and managed the Happy Valley girls’ basketball team, and held leadership roles in FFA and Key Club. She has also been recognized for her outstanding work with her school’s greenhouse. “The sky is the limit for Shaina,” says Happy Valley teacher Adam Copeland. She “exhibits high character and integrity in the way she carries herself at school, and in the way she treats people.”

• Veronica Watson (Elizabethton High School; Elizabethton): Veronica Watson is committed to ensuring all students have access to the best education possible – including access to quality STEM education. She has been actively involved with XQ Institute, a leading organization dedicated to rethinking the high school experience, include serving on its Student Advisory Committee. She is also the student representative to the Elizabethton City Schools Board of Education. Countless younger kids have learned about coding from Veronica, who has served as an assistant teacher at Summer Code Camps for three years. She is also an accomplished roller skater and an Appalachian Highlands Twenty Under 20 honoree. “I believe Veronica’s peers would unanimously agree that she is an outstanding leader and that her character is evident in how she treats other students in and out of the classroom,” says Megan Ellis, a school counselor at Elizabethton High School.

The Roan, which is funded primarily by private donations, was established by Louis H. Gump in 1997 and the first class entered in 2000. Jeffress says the eight scholars selected for the Class of 2025 represent the Roan values of leadership excellence and impact, as well as the legacy started by Gump that now expands over two decades. “It is remarkable to see the growth and development of the Roan Program over the past two decades. This newest class of Roan Scholars will eventually join the ranks of our 70-plus alumni who are leading and serving throughout our region and around the world,” said Roan Founder Louis H. Gump. “During this unusually challenging year we are especially grateful to all of our partners in this Roan process – the high schools that nominated such outstanding students, our committee members who devoted many hours to interviewing and selecting students, and our countless supporters who make financial gifts that support the program. They are the reasons for our success. None of this would be possible without them.”

For more information, contact the Roan office at 423-439-7677 or [email protected], or visit the Roan website at