Roan Class of 2024 includes two Kingsport students

Rick Wagner • Feb 3, 2020 at 6:30 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Kingsport City Schools seniors Gavin Bentley and Sally Chikomb are among eight students from the region chosen for the Roan Scholars Leadership Program for the Class of 2024.

The eight will join 24 returning Roan Scholars at East Tennessee State University this fall as part of the four-year scholarship program marking its 20th year. The Roan offers a comprehensive four-year program of out-of-the-classroom experiences and opportunities designed to challenge and inspire students to grow and develop as future leaders. The scholarship also includes a financial award for tuition and fees; room and board; and books and supplies.

“The Roan Program has established a tradition of recruiting to ETSU outstanding young leaders who have already demonstrated commitment to leadership excellence in a variety of ways. We continue that tradition of excellence with this newest class of Roan Scholars,” Roan Director Scott Jeffress said in a news release.

Jeffress said the eight represent the Roan values of leadership excellence and impact and were selected from among nearly 100 nominees in 27 counties across Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina. The program is funded primarily by private donations and was established by Louis H. Gump in 1997.

“It is remarkable to see how the Roan Program has grown over the last 20 years. These newest Scholars will eventually join the ranks of our nearly 70 alumni who are leading and serving throughout our region, the nation and the world,” said Gump.


Gavin Bentley (D-B EXCEL): Robotics has provided Bentley the opportunity to learn, lead and grow other leaders. He is currently CEO of his high school’s underwater robotics team, which has competed at the international level. He shares his love of robotics as an intern at STREAMWORKS, a nonprofit supporting K-12 STEM education. Bentley has received an award of excellence from the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists and was named to the inaugural list of the Appalachian Highlands Twenty Under 20. He also practices tae kwon do and plays piano.

“Gavin has been much more than just a generator of ideas,” D-B EXCEL Principal Shanna Hensley said. “He has created a system of longevity for the programs he has founded … instilling processes and leadership within the younger students to take up the mantles for programs.”

Sally Chikomb (Dobyns-Bennett): Chikomb is a four-year member and the current captain of the award-winning D-B color guard. She is actively engaged in numerous student organizations, including HOSA and Beta Club, and has participated in S.H.O.U.T Youth Leadership and the Y.E.L.L.! Mayor’s Youth Council. She has worked to support an orphanage in Africa where her parents work, including raising $1,600 for school supplies.

“Sally does and will continue to make a lifelong impact on those around her,” says Sandi Nelson, school counselor at D-B. “She will leave big shoes to fill. I look forward to seeing all the ways she will contribute to our world.”

“I am very excited for Sally and Gavin,” D-B Principal Chris Hampton said. "They work incredibly hard and are very strong students. They have both proven to be just as strong in their roles as school and community leaders. I have no doubt they will represent our school and community extremely well and will be valuable additions to ETSU and the Roan Scholars Program.”


— Cade Campbell (Homeschooled, Bristol, Tenn.): The natural world is Campbell’s inspiration. He has shared that love with countless individuals, be it through leading hikes at Steele Creek Park and Roan Mountain State Park, volunteering as a naturalist at the Blue Ridge Discovery Center and Bays Mountain Park, or sharing his nature photography and writing via his social media channels and website. He has obtained certifications as both a Tennessee Volunteer Naturalist and Virginia Master Naturalist and is currently working on his Eagle Scout Service Project.

— Emily Casteel (North Greene High School): The importance of agriculture and agricultural education has been a defining aspect of Casteel’s  high school experience. She is an eight-year 4-H member and four-year member of her high school’s FFA chapter. Currently the president of her FFA chapter, she was awarded a scholarship to attend the National FFA Washington Leadership Program. She has owned and operated a fresh egg business since 2014, an extension of her 4-H poultry project. An aspiring teacher, Casteel served as the student representative for the Greene County Board of Education and volunteers two mornings a week in a second grade classroom at Baileyton Elementary School.

— Ronquille Joyner (David Crockett High School): Joyner is an actor, athlete and community volunteer. He values creativity, including acting in local plays and writing and directing his own skits. He is a three-sport athlete, participating in football, basketball, and track and field. He currently serves as a student representative to the Washington County Board of Education and has volunteered at the Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association Food Pantry for more than a decade.

— Keaton Smith (Daniel Boone High School): Smith has emerged as a leader both on the cross country course and in his high school. He has run cross country all four years, serving most recently as co-captain of the Daniel Boone varsity team. Smith is a four-year member of Student Council, HOSA and FCA. He enjoys the outdoors, including mountain biking, skiing and hiking.

— Lexi Vance (Mountain Heritage High School; Burnsville, North Carolina): Vance is founder of the Doing the Good initiative at her high school, which promotes philanthropic projects. The group has developed a strong relationship with a local senior nursing home, where high school students connect with residents on a weekly basis. She is president of her high school’s Business Leaders of America chapter and a longtime volunteer for Relay for Life. Vance is a multisport athlete, having played volleyball, softball, basketball and soccer at the high school level.

— Cadee Warren (Mitchell High School, Spruce Pine, North Carolina): Warren is captain of the varsity cheerleading team and secretary of her senior class. Her cheerleading builds upon years of training as a competitive dancer. Warren is a four-year member of Future Business Leaders of America and FCA, and she represented her high school at Tar Heel Girls State.

For more information, call the Roan office at (423) 439-7677, email [email protected] or visit www.RoanScholars.org.