The scholarship is sponsored by Domtar.
Established in 1989, the award is a four-year, $5,000 scholarship ($1,250 each year) given annually to a graduating high school senior along the 110-mile Santa Train route. The route stretches from Elkhorn City, Ky., through Virginia and into Tennessee and Kingsport.
Students apply for the scholarship and the winner is selected by the Santa Train scholarship committee. The winner is chosen based on grade point average, extracurricular activities, a counselor or teacher’s recommendation and financial need.
“I have been McKenzie’s school counselor for the past three years, and I have always been impressed with her maturity, commitment to excellence and dedication to helping others,” said Rebecca Baker, guidance counselor of Gate City High School.
Templeton plans on attending East Tennessee State University and pursuing a double major in English and marketing with a minor in secondary education.
Templeton is involved in many extracurricular activities such as the Tennessee/Virginia Scholar Program, the AIMS Scholar Program and the National Honor Society. She served as class secretary for her senior class and was a member of the school’s marching band and wind ensemble while maintaining a part-time job at Ross clothing store.
Templeton created her own organization, Stand Up For Down Syndrome, in honor of her younger brother, Blake.
“The main goals of Stand Up For Down Syndrome are to educate, advocate and celebrate Down syndrome and other special needs,” Templeton said. “I fundraise for local special needs charities and speak to multiple schools about what Down syndrome is. I am proud to be the youngest-ever ambassador for the Commonwealth of Virginia for the National Down Syndrome Society.”
Templeton is also involved in other local community service projects including the Santa Train and Gloves for Love.
For 77 years, the Santa Train has been running through Appalachia, delivering 15 tons of new toys, clothes, candy and gifts to thousands of children in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee along a 110-mile route with 14 stops.
The Santa Train is sponsored by CSX, Appalachian Power, Soles4Souls, Food City and the Kingsport Chamber.