Harmony Paulus dives for two Frisbees during Thursday's picnic. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT — After 20 years and 10,000 students, the Tennessee/Virginia Scholars program is still going strong and has spawned two other similar programs in the Tri-Cities.
The Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday hosted a picnic for the 20th graduating class of the scholars program, which honored the efforts and achievements of almost 400 graduating seniors from area high schools.
"The premise of the Tennessee/Virginia Scholars Program is to better prepare students for college, work, technical school and community service; competition is global and we want our students to be prepared to compete," said Nicole Austin, the chamber's director of workforce development and government relations.
The picnic was at the Eastman Recreational Area near Bays Mountain Park, where Etta Clark, vice president of Eastman global public affairs, told the students to thank teachers, parents and others who have supported them through high school and the scholars program.
"Someone once said there are no short cuts to a place worth going," Clark said.
"We really need to thank the teachers in our school systems for all they do," said Clark, a Hawkins County native of the Rogersville area who drew applause from Cherokee High School students when she announced that. "Life is a continuous learning opportunity You're never finished."
She grew up on a dairy farm, and her mother was a teacher and father a principal.
Volunteer High School senior Katie Turner, who plans to attend Northeast State Community College and then East Tennessee State University to become a math teacher, said her mother convinced her to meet the challenges of the scholars program.
Successful scholars must take four years of math, four years of lab sciences, make at least a C in core scholars courses, have no out-of-school suspension, attendance of 95 percent, good behavior and do 80 hours of community service.
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