TN/VA Scholars celebrate achievement with picnic

Rick Wagner • Apr 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — More than 500 area high school students who have excelled for four years in academics and community service took a picnic “pit stop” Tuesday before graduation.

Students from Kingsport and Sullivan and Hawkins counties in Tennessee and Scott County in Virginia attended the 16th annual Tennessee/Virginia Scholars Senior Celebration at the Eastman Recreational Area near Bays Mountain.

The program, formerly known as AIMS Scholars, requires students to take “on level” and advanced courses in subjects like math, science, social studies, language arts, foreign language and computer literacy. In addition, students must maintain a C average in TN/VA Scholars courses, do community service, and keep 95 percent attendance.

Students from 10 high schools participate: Cherokee and Volunteer in Hawkins County; Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport; Sullivan Central, South, North and East in Sullivan County; and Gate City, Rye Cove and Twin Springs in Scott County.

The Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce program, sponsored by Eastman Chemical Co., required 20 hours of community service this year, but it will require 80 hours for the class of 2011.

D-B senior Kelly Combs volunteered in the Kitchen of Hope and took First Baptist Church of Kingsport mission trips to Chicago and Puerto Rico.

Fellow D-B senior Victoria Johnson said it was often difficult to balance time among academics, her competitive dance activities, community service and friends.

Dennis Spurgeon, general manager of Hertz-Rent-A-Car in Blountville, told the students that the program and their entire high school experience were building blocks for higher education and that education, as Aristotle said, was sometimes a bitter root that bears sweet fruits.

“The next two to 10 years is going to determine what you do for the next 65 to 70 (years),” said Spurgeon.

Although Spurgeon said being well off financially is not the key to a happy life, he said having enough money to take trips to Disney World or Myrtle Beach makes life sweeter.

“Money’s not the only thing. You have to be happy with what you do,” Spurgeon said.

Hertz was the picnic title sponsor. Other sponsors were Appalachian Power and Cooper Standard Automotive, while in-kind sponsors were Le Bleu Bottled Water, Coca-Cola, GTS Refreshments, Food City, Wal-Mart and Jersey Mike’s.

“It’s (the TN/VA Scholars program) just going to help me in the long run in college,” said Volunteer senior Mackenzie Draine. “I would recommend it to any high school student.”

Draine said she took trigonometry, honors English and an East Tennessee State University dual-enrollment course.

At Sullivan Central, senior Ali Doughterty said the academics were tough — taking Advanced Placement (AP) physics and calculus — while fellow Central senior Kaitlin Rhymer said it was challenging striking a balance between schoolwork and community service. She volunteered at an assisted-living facility and took AP calculus, English and biology.

Rye Cove senior Tra Bolt said the challenging academics of honors government, psychology, English and other courses was the toughest part of the program for him, while Rye Cove senior Justin Bishop said he got a lot out of dual-enrollment math and English classes through Mountain Empire Community College.

Bishop said he plans to pursue a two-year degree at MECC and become a physical therapy assistant.

“They typically have more of a motivation to keep their grades higher,” said Rye Cove English teacher Christy Head, who teaches dual-enrollment English. “They do tend to be the kids more interested in school and have more community involvement as well.”

Gate City senior Jennifer Lewis said she enjoyed a summer program helping teach elementary children how to play volleyball, while Gate City senior Chelsea Spivey said the TN/VA Scholars designation on her diploma will recognize, among other things, dual-enrollment English, biology and government courses through MECC.

“It helped my academics in general because I worked harder,” Spivey said.

To donate to the program or for more information call Nichole Austin at the chamber at 392-8835 or go to www.tnvascholars.org/.

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