The Yadkin Valley Rotary Club rewarded four scholarships worth $1,000 to students from Elkin, East Wilkes and Starmount High for their service and dedication to the community. The scholarships were rewarded Wednesday morning at the Fairfield Inn & Suites just off of I-77 in Elkin, where the recipients got to enjoy a breakfast with the Rotary Club members. All four winners were present for the rewards.
“I think this is the first that I remember that we’ve had all of our scholarship winners here at one time,” said Jerry Stroud, president of the Yadkin Valley Rotary Club. “Most of the times one would come while the others couldn’t due to conflicts with school.”
The scholarship is called “Service Above Self,” and is given to recipients who reflect the values of Rotary and services in the community. All four recipients have been actively involved with projects and community events which require their leadership. Many of these activities were done on their own initiation. Most of the funds for the scholarships come from the Rotary Club’s New Year’s lunch. This is the fifth year the scholarships have been presented by the Rotary Club.
“My father, John J. Cahill, inspired the scholarships,” said Youth Services Committee Chairperson Mary Blackburn. “He was a member and president of the Rotary club and the scholarships were one of his projects. This crowd and this room of people were very, very important to him.”
In the past, three scholarships have been given out to students from Elkin, Starmount and East Wilkes High. Students go through an application process where they are required to indicate their involvement in the community by talking about their service projects with an essay and short answer. The Rotary had 21 applicants from three schools for the scholarship. That number was increased to four this year.
“They were all very deserving of the reward,” said Blackburn. “Each committee member who reviewed the applicants was astounded at the great things that our high school students are doing in our local community and the world.”
This is the first year four scholarships have been given out. The fourth scholarship, the Rotary Club Memorial Scholarship in memory of John J. Cahill, was given to an Interact Club member from Elkin High, the high school equivalent of Rotary, with the hopes that the student will continue his or her service for the community in the future. The Interact club is sponsored by the Yadkin Valley Rotary Club and those students have been involved with the club and the community projects including serving at the New Year’s Day Luncheon, building and bridge projects in the area, service projects, The ARK, and Upper Yadkin Valley Habitat for Humanity.
“It acknowledges a student not for their athletic or academic achievements but for an early recognition of being part of a community,” said Blackburn. “It’s important for the community, because it helps develop community leaders with our youth.”
The scholarship amount also has risen this year, growing from $750 to $1,000 in one year. Blackburn hopes that growth will continue.
“I don’t know that the number of scholarships will grow, but hopefully the amount will. I think we’d like to see where we can make an impact. Every little bit helps, and the students and the parents are always grateful for the support. A lot of these small scholarships added together can make a big difference.”
The winners of this year’s Yadkin Valley Rotary Club scholarships are:
• Katie St. John from Starmount High School — Katie volunteers at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital and works at the concession stands for her school’s sporting events. She will be attending UNCG to pursue a degree in nursing.
• Lydia Burcham from East Wilkes High School — Lydia is very involved in her high school’s clubs including Future Farmers of America, the Key Club, and the National Honor Society. She will be attending NC State in the fall to major in agriculture education with a concentration in poultry science.
• Carolyn Blackburn from Elkin High School — Carolyn enjoys working on the New Year’s Eve Luncheon. She plans on attending the University of Chapel Hill and studying psychology and criminology with a focus on criminal profiling.
• Kennedy Freeman from Elkin High School. The first winner of the Rotary Club Memorial Scholarship, one of her past projects in community service this past summer was a children’s camp at The ARK. She will be attending the University of Chapel Hill and will be majoring in international studies following that with a degree in nonprofit management.
The recipients of this year’s scholarships are thrilled about their awards, but they’re also looking forward to continuing their education and seeing what lies for them down the road.
“I’m very excited,” said Katie St. John. “I’m excited to start a new chapter in my life. It’s important to give back to help give into you.”
“I feel very honored,” said Carolyn Blackburn. “I’ve been with Interact all four years of high school so I’m happy that I can carry on the legacy and the name that they have and I hope to keep being involved and keep coming back during my four years in college.
“Volunteer work, especially for teenagers our age, is very important because it gives a good sense of work ethnic and it develops a sense of community which I think is kind of special,” she continued. “I think my main thing is to just get involved and get to know people and get to know the place that you live in. The people in the community have a lot to share. They’re all very knowledgeable and I definitely have learned a lot in my four years here being involved. It’s important to immerse yourself in whatever you’re doing.”
“It’s just such an honor to be recognized by the Rotary club and to show the younger students that they have something to look forward to,” said Kennedy Freeman. “Your involvement with the Interact Club doesn’t end when you graduate from high school. It goes on through life.”
Mary Blackburn believes that “Service Above Self was embodied very well in all four of these young ladies and extended an invitation that they come back at some time to tell them about what they were doing and how their goals are evolving.
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.