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Boone student to become Roan Scholar



A Daniel Boone High School senior is among the list of eight students who have been named the newest members of the Roan Scholars Leadership Program at East Tennessee State University.

Connor McClelland of Boone will become part of the Roan Scholars Class of 2021 and will receive a scholarship that includes both a financial award and four years of customized experiences and opportunities, including international travel and study abroad, internships, workshops and seminars, alumni and community leader interaction, and other unique programs, all of which are focused on equipping students for leadership excellence and making a positive impact. In return, Roan Scholars are expected to seek and serve in leadership roles, and, after college, to continue leading and making a significant impact both in their chosen professions and in their communities.

“The Roan looks for young men and women with the capacity, desire and drive to become exceptional leaders – individuals who take initiative to identify, learn about, and address needs in their communities and mobilize others to join them in those efforts,” said Roan director Scott Jeffress. “Members of this newest Roan class embody those qualities and we are confident that for many years to come they will positively impact ETSU, this region and the world. “

“This incoming class of Roan Scholars has already made a tangible positive impact on their schools and communities,” scholarship founder Louis H. Gump said. “They exemplify the character and leadership talent we want to attract. We look forward to working with them and our other Scholars to enhance their skills so that they can have additional positive influence on ETSU, our area and the places where they will live.”

McClelland will join fellow scholars Katie Barlowe of A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville; Tiffany Cook of Cherokee High School in Rogersville; Larissa Copley of Grainger High School in Rutledge; Cierra Linka of South Greene High School in Greeneville; Austin Ramsey of Sullivan Central High School in Blountville; Iris Rubi Estrada Romero of Avery County High School in Newland, N.C.; and Adam Rosenbalm of Tri-Cities Christian High School in Blountville as they add their numbers to the 22 returning Roan Scholars on campus this fall.,

This year’s class of Roan Scholars was selected from a pool of nearly 100 outstanding students nominated by more than 60 high schools in 27 eligible counties throughout our region, including, for the first time, Buncombe County, North Carolina.  Five of the eight students are the first from their high schools to be selected for the Roan program.

A student’s potential for leadership excellence and lifelong impact is the distinguishing factor in his or her selection as a Roan Scholar by the Roan Steering Committee. The Roan, which is funded primarily by private donations, was established in 1997 by Louis H. Gump to attract the region’s most promising young leaders and develop each student’s unique leadership potential.

The Roan Program now has 50 alumni serving throughout the region and the world in education, government, business, medicine, non-profit work, the military and other fields.

Gump added, “Our sincere gratitude goes to all participating high schools, our Roan Staff, and the community members who make the Roan Scholars Leadership Program such a vital part of our Region.”

Here are a few more details about the members of the Roan Class of 2021:

• “I would love to be a United States senator,” said Connor McClelland, a senior at Daniel Boone High School, when asked who he would choose to be for a day. “I have a great interest in legislative politics, because even though they are often underappreciated, they are the most influential part of the American system.” McClelland has already had a taste of politics through his participation in Tennessee American Legion Boys State last summer.  He served as lieutenant governor and, more recently, assumed the responsibilities of acting governor. He is also Student Council president and an Eagle Scout. For his Eagle Scout project, he spent five months surveying, plotting and mapping the 200-year-old cemetery of the Fall Branch United Methodist Church. McClelland has “terrific interpersonal skills” and is a “high-energy person with a strong, uplifting personality,” according to Regina Cox, McClelland’s high school counselor. “I would go so far as to say he will be a political force in his lifetime.”

• During her freshman year at A.C. Reynolds High School, Katie Barlowe developed a new awareness of the plight of hunger in her community. Moved by that need, Barlowe founded the annual MANNA Student Food Drive, which raises money and food for a local food bank. Barlowe also sought to support her fellow students by founding and leading a chapter of Campus Life ministry at her high school, and she brought attention to the issue of sex trafficking by starting a chapter of the North Carolina-based “Youth 4 Abolition” organization in Asheville. Barlowe’s school counselor, Laura McCreary, said, “In every facet of life, Katie shows up as a leader; (she) naturally discerns the needs of her community, views the gaps in resources as a challenge and feels called to use her skills to meet the needs.”

Tiffany Cook, a senior at Cherokee High School, has a unique perspective on education in Tennessee. She currently serves as the only student member of the Tennessee State Board of Education and is also a student member of the Hawkins County Board of Education. Cook played a significant role in Cherokee’s designation as a Safe Sport School by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, an award that recognizes secondary schools that take “crucial steps to keep their athletes free from injuries.” Only nine secondary schools in Tennessee currently hold this designation. According to Tommie Loudy, one of Cook’s advisors, her “dedication, perseverance and ability to overcome challenges and communicate effectively with school leaders” were critical to the initiative. “I feel certain,” Loudy added, “that without her leadership, Cherokee High School would never have been designated a Safe Sport School.”

• A senior at Grainger High School, Larissa Copley is well-known among her classmates as a class officer and vice president of Beta Club. Each week, though, she also serves fellow students in a way that is largely unseen: she helps school staff pack and distribute items confidentially to students in need. She has packed thousands of items, from food to soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. “My work for the Students in Need program would have to be my most impactful community contribution,” she said. Copley hopes to extend this service work by starting a clothing closet at her high school for students in need before she graduates. Dr. Amanda Johnson, a school counselor, also notes Copley’s service to students through tutoring: “Larissa is oftentimes called upon by the Counseling Department to help tutor and has never turned down a student that she could help.” Copley, according to Johnson, “epitomizes ‘servant leadership.’”

• “The desire to influence change is what motivates me,” states Cierra Linka, a senior at South Greene High School. Linka has participated in numerous high school activities, including Students Against Destructive Decisions, Future Farmers of America, the “Move 2 Stand” anti-bullying initiative and Greene County Youth Leadership. Linka has balanced this high level of involvement with working two jobs to provide for her needs and to save for a school trip to Europe to learn about the Holocaust. She is “one of the most natural leaders I have ever had the privilege of working with in our program,” states Karen Hartman, who has grown to know Linka through the Tusculum College Upward Bound Program. “She is going to change the world.”

• It is the rare high school senior who can already claim the title of serial entrepreneur – but that is the case for Austin Ramsey, a student at Sullivan Central High School. As a middle school student, Ramsey created a business focused on providing DJ services.  He then went on to create a computer consulting business, and, most recently, started a business venture providing dronography services. “From working with computer clients each day to working with seniors at the nursing home, I cherish these moments as I gain insight about their past and improve their future,” he said. Ramsey is also the youth leader of the National 4-H GIS Leadership Team and has competed and spoken at state and regional GIS conferences. In 2016, the Sullivan County Local Emergency Planning Committee awarded Ramsey the Community Impact Appreciation Award for his use of technical skills to benefit emergency planning in the county. “Austin has remained genuine and sincere, constantly striving to do his best and finding opportunities that can impact others,” said Brittany Jones, his school counselor. “Austin will be a driving force for whichever company he ends up working with.”

Iris Rubi Estrada Romero has directed her efforts at Avery County High School toward a specific goal: to get more Latino students involved in clubs and school activities. Estrada herself is the first and only Latino member of her high school’s Student Government Association and the first Latino president of the school’s National Honor Society. To reach and encourage her fellow Latino students, Estrada believed that she also had to reach their families. To that end, she has spoken at a parents’ meeting about the importance of school involvement, made personal phone calls to the homes of rising freshmen about freshman orientation day, and volunteered to participate in a college information session for the Latino community. “I get an amazing feeling when I know that I helped someone; the joy I find through service cannot be found anywhere else,” said Estrada. Libby Gragg, her college and career counselor, noted that Estrada has brought about change at her school – and in herself. “By senior year, Rubi has evolved into a humanitarian, a leader, an innovator and a motivator of the student body,” said Gragg.

• “Be genuine with everyone and show love in all situations.” That’s what Adam Rosenbalm, a senior at Tri-Cities Christian School, said he strives for every day in his numerous leadership roles, including serving as president of his school’s Honor Society, senior class president and captain of both the varsity men’s basketball and soccer teams. Rosenbalm identifies his work on several mission trips to Belize as one of the most impactful activities he has participated in during high school. “The opportunity to provide a fundamental need to a group of people left a huge impact in myself as well as this community,” he said. Cindy Beal, Rosenbalm’s guidance counselor, said that he “has the respect of his teammates, peers in class, faculty and staff.” She added, “He has an exemplary character, compassion, a desire to help others who may be struggling, is an encourager and leads with action.”

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