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Shining ‘Lites’ brighten their corner of the world

Deborah Peterson • Dec 25, 2017 at 4:30 PM

Santa Claus had some extra helpers at the Christmas parade in Rogersville this month. Filling in for the elves, an exceptional group of students from Cherokee High School enjoyed assisting Santa as part of their service in the Rogersville Heritage Lites Leadership Program. Every other year, they also assist with the Christmas Tour of Homes. A ‘Lite’ member is placed in each room of the historic Hale Springs Inn to explain the history of the room to guests.

But their duties do not end after Christmas. Throughout the year, they are involved in many community events, such as Heritage Days, Cherokee Lake Cleanup, Trunk or Treat, the East Tennessee Young Bluegrass Musicians Contest and the Boys and Girls Club Fun Run. The students also hang up and take down all of the flags and banners on Main Street for each holiday or special observances such as the Fourth of July and Veterans Day.

The Heritage Lites Youth Leadership Program is a service organization involving participants from Cherokee High School and several home-schooled students in Hawkins County. It was formed by the Rogersville Heritage Association and the Rogersville-Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of building character and leadership qualities in young people. Emphasizing volunteer service and community involvement, the program requires students to attend five training sessions per school year which includes subjects such as etiquette, preparing resumes, local government and local history. Each member is also required to participate in at least 25 hours of community service per school year, although many end up investing as many as 60 hours in the program. There are currently 77 participants within Hawkins County.

Several Cherokee High School students and officers of the Lites Program met recently at the historic Hale Springs Inn to share their reasons for being involved in the program.

Will Jenkins, a senior and ‘Lite’ president, said that one advantage of the program is that it helps him to get the required community service hours needed to graduate. “Not only does it help me get what I need for school, but I have gained an overall appreciation of where I was raised,” Will pointed out.

Sophomore Cooper Bolton, ‘Lite’ secretary, stressed the importance of preserving local history as a vital part of the program. “It is pretty important to protect and promote history. It gives you a greater appreciation of your local roots,” he said.

While some young people can’t wait to leave their hometown, these students are very proud of where they are from. “I really love Rogersville,” said sophomore Laura Grace Jenkins, ‘Lite’ reporter. “It has a small-town charm and I don’t want to see it go by the wayside. I want to help preserve its history.”

Emily Snodgrass, a junior and ‘Lite’ vice president, is also proud of her hometown. “We want to keep Rogersville the cute little town that it is,” she said. “When we go away to college or to a job, we would like to know that we can come back and enjoy it as much as we do now.”

One purpose of the program is to build leaders of the future and, based on our visit at the Hale Springs Inn recently, it would appear the program is a success. It is inspiring to find young people who have such a passion for their local history, and such an interest in being community leaders. These young people truly are a bright ‘Lite’ in their corner of the world.

“These kids have a good reputation and are held to a higher standard of behavior,” said Pam Jenkins, co-director of Heritage Lites. “They rise to each occasion, and are exceptional kids.”

For more information on the Heritage Lites Leadership Program, contact the Rogersville Heritage Association at 423-272-1961 or the Rogersville-Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce at 423-272-2186.

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