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Boone valedictorian named Haslam Scholar at University of Tennessee

Contributed To The Press • Jun 3, 2019 at 1:13 PM

Two are Eagle Scouts. Several speak two or more languages. All have demonstrated academic excellence, served in leadership roles, and been avid community volunteers.

The 2019–20 incoming class of 15 Haslam Scholars was confirmed last week. Eleven are from Tennessee; the others are from Georgia, Missouri, Texas, and Ohio.

John Maddox, of Jonesborough, plans to major in mathematics and wants to be a cryptographer. He is valedictorian of the 2019 graduating class at Daniel Boone High School in Gray, Tennessee. He is secretary of the Beta Club, president of the Science Olympiad team, and a member of the National Honor Society and the Academic Team. He is also active as a leader in Boy Scouts and earned his Eagle Scout badge in October 2017. He tutors fellow students in trigonometry and calculus.

The other 14 students admitted are:

Aliya Benabderrazak, of Laredo, Texas, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, plans to major in psychology and wants to work with children with mental illnesses. Born in Massachusetts to a Moroccan father and an American mother, Benabderrazak attended a bilingual school before moving to Mexico at the age of 13. She has volunteered with a nonprofit organization that provides free medical, dental, and mental health care to children from rural areas outside San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She also teaches a bilingual religious exploration class to children at the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church.

Eilish Bennett, of Centerville, Tennessee, plans to major in political science with a concentration in international affairs. She has interned with Tennessee Senator Kerry Roberts, writes for the Hickman County Times, and is currently training to be an emergency medical associate. As president of her school’s Beta Club, she organized a supply drive for her rural town’s Humane Society and domestic abuse shelter. She is the leader of her church’s youth group and was a captain of her school’s girls’ varsity soccer team.

Browning Clark, of Nashville, plans to major in accounting and aspires to be the CEO of a company. She will be a third-generation Volunteer. She is her school’s ambassador president and yearbook editor. For her high school Global Scholar capstone project, she is studying the barriers to gender parity in girls’ education around the globe.

Whitson Buck, of Nolensville, Tennessee, plans to major in international business. A homeschooled student, he is an Eagle Scout who has completed more than 100 hours of community service. Two years ago, Buck led a group of seven scouts on a 60-mile backpacking expedition in the mountains of New Mexico. He lived for a while in Chisinau, Moldova, where he saw the effects of governmental corruption. He is writing his senior thesis on how post-Soviet states can become economically independent through anticorruption measures.

Nathan Clark, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, plans to major in business analytics. He is a lifelong soccer player—a goalie—and has been recognized by the Olympic Development Program as a Tennessee First Team player. He serves as a youth soccer coach for a local club, training young goalies, and volunteers weekly to teach soccer to kids with disabilities.

Caleb Ellis, of Sevierville, Tennessee, plans to major in computer engineering and aspires to do research that leads to better technology. He has built multiple computers for his friends and himself. At Sevierville High School, he tutors fellow students and is active with the National Honor Society.

Leah Gutzwiller, of Liberty Township, Ohio, plans to major in biomedical engineering. She attends Mount Notre Dame High School, an all-girls high-school in Reading, Ohio. She is the first female president of the Molecular Modeling Club at Archbishop Moeller, an all-boys school, and has helped prepare presentations on the club’s protein research for national conferences. She traveled to Rome last winter with her school’s Model United Nations Club, where she participated in a debate on nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula. She has worked with various community groups serving differently abled adults.

Allie Hemmings, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, plans to major in pre-medicine. She is currently taking dual-enrollment classes at Volunteer State Community College and will earn both her high school diploma and an associate’s degree in May. She attended the Governor’s School for the Arts for soprano voice and was chosen to attend Bound for Broadway, a summer program at Long Island University Post. A Girl Scout since kindergarten, she recently completed her Gold Award project—Sew for Seniors, in which she teaches sewing skills to children and teens who make items to nursing home residents.

Sreya Kumpatla, of Memphis, plans to major in aerospace engineering and aspires to work at NASA or SpaceX. She had a perfect score on her ACT and won second place in the regional high school chemistry exam. She is active with her school’s Science Olympiad team and captain of the varsity tennis team, and was a gold medalist in the 2018 State Games of Mississippi.

Jessie Li, of Knoxville, is a graduate of Farragut High School. She plans to major in biomedical engineering and wants to do research that leads to safer gene therapies. Through her high school student government, she helped collect 22,000 cans of food for the Love Kitchen, a local charity serving homebound and homeless people. Li regularly volunteers in the emergency room and therapy services unit of Methodist Medical Center. She also founded an online tutoring program for Shuangwang Elementary School in rural China, using her bilingualism to supplement students’ English instruction.

Delia McDevitt, of Paris, Tennessee, plans to major in philosophy and hopes to pursue a career in human rights law. She is on her school’s speech and debate team and has starred in several theatrical productions. She co-founded her school’s first inclusive club for LGBT+ students and is a member of the Tennessee Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network Shine Team. She is president of her school’s French Club and treasurer of the service-oriented Leo Club. She also serves as blog post editor for Nashville-based nonprofit Thread of Care.

Maggie Meystrik, of St. Louis, Missouri, plans to major in psychology and aspires to a career in research. She is the founder and president of Rosie’s Rebels, a club that advocates for women’s empowerment. Through this club, she has raised over $1,000 for the Covering House, an organization that provides housing and counseling for young survivors of sex trafficking. She is the editor of her school’s quarterly publication of student writing and artwork and serves as stage manager for her school’s theater productions.

Hannah Morris, of Smyrna, Georgia, plans to major in therapeutic recreation and wants to be an occupational therapist. At Whitefield Academy, which she attended for 13 years, she was a peer tutor, mentor, campus ambassador, and secretary of the Honor Council. She participated in the Christian-based Experiential Leadership Institute in Georgia and worked with the organization’s Grow Day Camps to host weeklong camps for elementary school students.

Rachel Stewart, of McMinnville, Tennessee, is an aspiring diplomat who will major in global studies and political science. During high school, she tutored non-native English speakers and participated in a sister-cities exchange program in Japan. A semifinalist in the State Department’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth, she hopes to travel to Tajikistan this summer for a language immersion program. She is teaching herself Spanish, Japanese, Persian, and Kazakh. She is the captain of her school’s soccer, tennis, and quiz bowl teams; president of its Model United Nations; and founder of its Shakespeare Club.

The Haslam Scholars Program was founded in 2008 with a $2.5 million donation by Jimmy and Dee Haslam and a $2.5 million donation by Jim and Natalie Haslam.

The program admits 15 scholars each year after a highly competitive selection process. This year’s appointed scholars were chosen from more than 500 applicants. Each scholar will receive scholarships to cover the estimated cost of in-state tuition and fees and the average cost of campus housing, along with funding to support independent research. Out-of-state Haslam Scholars receive a waiver granting them in-state tuition.

Haslam Scholars reside in the Honors and Scholars living and learning community in the Fred D. Brown Jr. Residence Hall. They enjoy an exclusive curriculum, interdisciplinary seminars, and community service–learning. They also participate in a collaborative study abroad experience.

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