Class of 2021

Katie Barlowe

During her freshman year at A. C. Reynolds High School, Katie Barlowe developed a new awareness of the plight of hunger in her community. Moved by that need, Barlowe founded the annual MANNA Student Food Drive, which raises money and food for a local food bank. Barlowe also sought to support her fellow students by founding and leading a chapter of Campus Life ministry at her high school; and she brought attention to the issue of sex-trafficking through her work with the Asheville chapter of the North Carolina-based “Youth 4 Abolition” organization.  Barlowe’s school counselor, Laura McCreary said of her, “In every facet of life, Katie shows up as a leader; (she) naturally discerns the needs of her community, views the gaps in resources as a challenge and feels called to use her skills to meet the needs.”

Tiffany Cook

Tiffany Cook, a senior at Cherokee High School, has a unique perspective on education in Tennessee. She currently serves as the only student member of the Tennessee State Board of Education and is also a student member of the Hawkins County Board of Education. Cook played a significant role in Cherokee’s designation as a Safe Sport School by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, an award that recognizes secondary schools that take “crucial steps to keep their athletes free from injuries.” Only nine secondary schools in Tennessee currently hold this designation. According to Ms. Tommie Loudy, one of Cook’s advisors, her “dedication, perseverance, and ability to overcome challenges and communicate effectively with school leaders” were critical to the initiative. “I feel certain,” Loudy added, “that without her leadership, Cherokee High School would never have been designated a Safe Sport School.”

Larissa Copley

A senior at Grainger High School, Larissa Copley is well-known among her classmates as a class officer and Vice-President of Beta Club.  Each week, though, she also serves fellow students in a way that is largely unseen: she helps school staff confidentially pack and distribute items to students in need. She has packed thousands of items, from food to soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. “My work for the Students in Need program would have to be my most impactful community contribution,” she said. Copley hopes to extend this service work by starting a clothing closet at her high school for students in need before she graduates. Dr. Amanda Johnson, a school counselor, also notes Copley’s service to students through tutoring. “Larissa is often times called upon by the Counseling Department to help tutor and has never turned down a student that she could help.” Copley, according to Johnson, “epitomizes ‘servant leadership.’”

Rubi Estrada

Rubi Estrada has directed her efforts at Avery County High School toward a specific goal: to get more Latino students involved in clubs and school activities. Estrada herself is the first and only Latino member of her high school’s Student Government Association and the first Latino President of the school’s National Honor Society. To reach and encourage her fellow Latino students, Estrada believed that she also had to reach their families. To that end, she has spoken at a parents’ meeting about the importance of school involvement, made personal phone calls to the homes of rising freshman about freshman orientation day, and volunteered to participate in a college information session for the Latino community. “I get an amazing feeling when I know that I helped someone; the joy I find through service cannot be found anywhere else,” said Estrada. Libby Gragg, Estrada’s college and career counselor, noted that Estrada has brought about change at her school – and in herself. “By senior year, Rubi has evolved into a humanitarian, a leader, an innovator, and a motivator of the student body,” said Gragg.

Cierra Linka

“The desire to influence change is what motivates me,” states Cierra Linka, a senior at South Greene High School. Linka has participated in numerous high school activities, including Students Against Destructive Decisions, FFA, the “Move 2 Stand” anti-bullying initiative, and Greene County Youth Leadership. Linka has balanced this high level of involvement with working two jobs to provide for her needs and to save for a school trip to Europe to learn about the Holocaust. She is “one of the most natural leaders I have ever had the privilege of working with in our program,” states Karen Hartman, who has grown to know Linka through the Tusculum College Upward Bound Program. “She is going to change the world.”

Connor McClelland

“I would love to be a United States Senator,” said Connor McClelland, a senior at Daniel Boone High school, when asked who he would choose to be for a day. “I have a great interest in legislative politics, because even though they are often underappreciated, they are the most influential part of the American system.” McClelland has already had a taste of politics through his participation in Tennessee American Legion Boys State last summer.  McClelland served as Lieutenant Governor and, more recently, assumed the responsibilities of acting Governor. He is also Student Council President and an Eagle Scout. For his Eagle Scout project, he spent five months surveying, plotting, and mapping the 200 year-old cemetery of the Fall Branch United Methodist Church. McClelland has “terrific interpersonal skills” and is a “high-energy person with a strong, uplifting personality,” according to Regina Cox, McClelland’s high school counselor. “I would go so far as to say he will be a political force in his lifetime.”

Austin Ramsey

It is the rare high school senior who can already claim the title of serial entrepreneur – but that is the case for Austin Ramsey, a student at Sullivan Central High School. As a middle school student, Ramsey created a business focused on providing DJ services, he then went on to create a computer consulting business, and, most recently, started a business venture providing dronography services. “From working with computer clients each day to working with seniors at the nursing home, I cherish these moments as I gain insight about their past and improve their future,” he said. Ramsey is also the youth leader of the National 4-H GIS Leadership team and has competed and spoken at state and regional GIS conferences. In 2016, the Sullivan County Local Emergency Planning Committee awarded Ramsey the Community Impact Appreciation Award for his use of technical skills to benefit emergency planning in the county. “Austin has remained genuine and sincere, constantly striving to do his best and finding opportunities that can impact others,” said Brittany Jones, his school counselor. “Austin will be a driving force for whichever company he ends up working with.”

Adam Rosenbalm

“Be genuine with everyone and show love in all situations.” That’s what Adam Rosenbalm, a senior at Tri-Cities Christian School, said he strives for every day in his numerous leadership roles, including serving as President of his school’s Honor Society, Senior Class President, and captain of both the varsity men’s basketball and soccer teams. Rosenbalm identifies his work on several mission trips to Belize as among the most impactful activities he has participated in during high school. “The opportunity to provide a fundamental need to a group of people left a huge impact in myself as well as this community,” he said. Cindy Beal, Rosenbalm’s guidance counselor, said that Rosenbalm “has the respect of his teammates, peers in class, faculty and staff.” She added, “He has an exemplary character, compassion, a desire to help others who may be struggling, he is an encourager and leads with action.”