Roan Scholar Brad Fisher spends time with youth at Coalition 4 Kids.
The college experience is just as important as lectures and textbooks. Roan Scholars at East Tennessee State University get the best of both, especially during the summer.
The select group of 21 scholars currently enrolled in the leadership program are getting out of their comfort zones and taking on new challenges. Some are putting their hands and minds to work at non-profits, while others are crisscrossing the globe to study abroad. Many of the scholars on the cusp of graduating are testing their skill at internships.
“It’s not just a title or a thing you do in college,” said Scott Jeffress, director of the Roan Scholars Leadership Program. “My hope is that being a scholar is an important part of their identity. It’s not something you turn on and turn off in May and August. Its goes on and on and taking advantage of the summer contributes to growth year round and constantly helps students realize their full potential.”
The Roan Scholars Leadership Program is a four-year merit scholarship that provides full tuition and fees, plus a substantial room and board allowance, a book stipend, and a Dell laptop computer and printer for each incoming freshman chosen, which is usually about five each year.
High school students in Northeast Tennessee, as well as border counties in Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia are eligible and must be nominated by their high school principal. The program was established in May of 1997, largely though the initiative of long-time ETSU friend, Louis H. Gump. The first class of Roan Scholars entered ETSU in fall of 2000.
The newest crop of Roan Scholars will be the 14th class. And even though they have yet to start their academic careers, this summer will be their special induction into the Roan Scholars Leadership Program. They’ll participate in the weeklong Roan Outdoor Leadership Challenge that concludes at Roan Mountain.
“They get to reflect on the area for which the program was named,” Jeffrees said. “They work as a group and learn to rely on the rest of their class and learn to leverage strength to overcome weaknesses.”
As the freshmen look forward to bonding later this summer, the rising sophomores are in the thick of a pilot program – “Roan Summer of Service.” Each scholar is spending about six weeks working full-time at a local non-profit such as Coalition for Kids, Boys and Girls Club of Johnson City, Girls Inc. of Johnson City, One Acre Café and River’s Way.
“Roan Scholars receive some tremendous benefits by being part of the program,” Jeffrees said. “So there’s also a lot expected of them and it’s very important that they give back – both during their college years and beyond.”
Rising junior and senior Roan Scholars are involved in a combination of professional preparation and international experiences. Two scholars are currently in Rome and three others are headed to India and the Himalayas next month as part of a health exchange program.
Other Roan Scholars are also working as interns with a U.S. District Court, a local office for a U.S. Senator and at the Summit Leadership Foundation in Johnson City.
As the summer continues and the scholars rack up hours of experience, they’ll gather periodically to share their thoughts and lessons learned.
“We want to be an organization that’s all about leadership excellence and lifelong impact,” Jeffress said. “We want to make sure scholars understand this isn’t just a scholarship, it’s really an experience to give them the tools to develop as leaders.”