Meet Unicoi County's first-ever Roan Scholar

Brad Hicks • Feb 19, 2014 at 10:38 AM

The responsibility that comes with being Unicoi County’s first student to be selected for the East Tennessee State University Roan Scholars Leadership Program is not lost on Nathaniel Farnor.

“I suppose you could say I’m both nervous and excited,” he said. “I’m excited because I know that I’m going to have that opportunity to take that next step in my life and to pursue my goals with absolutely no cost, so I can put all of my effort into my work and not have to worry about money issues or things of that sort.

“But I’m also nervous going into this as Unicoi County’s first Roan Scholar, because I know not only am I representing myself and my passions and my dreams, but I’m also representing the county. A lot of people, when they meet me, I’ll be the first thing they know about Unicoi County based on how I treat them or my actions and my personality, so I’m going to try to do everything with dignity and pride for my county.

“In the end, I guess you could say that I’m excited about where I’m going, but I am proud of where I’m coming from. I’m definitely going to try not to forget that throughout college.”

Last month, the Erwin native and Unicoi County High School senior learned he had been selected as one of seven students to be part of the Roan Class of 2018.

Students selected for the program, established in 1997 by businessman Louis H. Gump and funded by private donations and university sources, receive funding for tuition, living expenses and books for their four-year college stint. They will also have the opportunity to travel internationally and study abroad.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to travel overseas, so I’m really excited about that,” Farnor said.

Like other students selected for the program, Farnor was recommended to the Roan organization by an official at his high school. After completing an information packet for the Roan Scholars Leadership Program, Farnor had his first interview with a panel in November. It was right before Thanksgiving that he learned he was one of 14 finalists for the program.

On Jan. 7, Farnor and the other finalists met at ETSU for complete individual interviews with the Roan Steering Committee, which selects the Roan Scholars.

The following week, Farnor received a letter from the committee, one he admits he was hesitant to read.

“I was actually nervous about opening it,” he said. “I kind of sat there just holding it because I didn’t want to open it. I was excited, hoping I got it, but I didn’t want to be let down if I didn’t.”

When he finally opened the letter, it took a while before the good news sank in.

“It probably took two or three times of me reading the entire letter before it hit me that I was accepted,” he said. “The rest of that day was just a blur from that point.”

Farnor will begin classes at ETSU in August. Before classes start, he will have the opportunity to meet and get to know the others selected for the Roan Scholars program. Farnor intends to major in political science and hopes to secure an internship in a political office or law firm once he earns his bachelor’s degree. From there, Farnor said his dream is to continue his education at law school.

“I do want to go into law, and potentially politics in the distant future,” he said.

At UCHS, Farnor has been involved in several clubs and organizations. One that he said he is most passionate about is student council, which he has been involved with since his sophomore year. This year, Farnor served as the UCHS student body president.

He has also been involved with the Unicoi County Relay for Life since 2010, serving on the local committee for the past two years. He said he intends to continue his work with the RFL throughout college and beyond. He is also involved with Lighthouse Baptist Church in Unicoi.

“I’m going to miss high school, because I know it’s only going to get harder from here,” Farnor said. “I’m going to miss the organizations I’ve been involved with and the friends I’ve made, but I am excited to be able to take that next step, to finally zone in on what I want to do.”

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