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EHS senior earns ETSU scholarship in the classroom and in the community

Contributed • Feb 18, 2020 at 6:40 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Kayla Story, a senior at Elizabethton High School, was recently recognized as a 2020 University Honors Scholar at East Tennessee State University for her stellar academics and community involvement.

ETSU awards only 22 of the University Honors Scholarships each year, and Story follows several former Elizabethton students who have been selected for the prestigious scholarship. The scholarship includes tuition, most fees, housing, meals, and an individual allowance each year at ETSU. When asked why she applied for the scholarship, she said, “I wanted to be around people who are focused on their learning and wanted to push themselves.” Story will have that opportunity this fall when she enrolls at ETSU.

Although she carries excellent academic credentials, Story feels that it was more than just her work in the classroom that set her apart, “I had more than just the examples of my classroom learning to back me up; I had hands-on experience.”

Story was part of a podcast class project in her junior year that sent entries to National Public Radio for their first Student Podcast Challenge. That class produced the eventual champion and two honorable mentions. Her podcast was about a 100-year-old World War II veteran, Florence Fetzer. Story’s team went to Sycamore Springs Assisted Living Center and interviewed Fetzer, and that is where she found her passion for working with the older generation.

“That podcast gave me the freedom to go and do more,” she said. “It was so much about people and communication, and I actually got to go and work in the assisted living center.”

Her senior year, she took a community improvement class under Dustin Hensley that allowed her free rein to pursue her passion. Story and two classmates created GRAND (Generational Reconnection and New Discovery) to bring together young people and residents of Sycamore Springs. “I chose something that mattered to me, and that just made me want to do more and make it my own.”

Jordan Bishop, life enrichment coordinator at Sycamore Springs whom Story works with, said Story is “really thankful for the opportunity to take the ideas she brews up and gets to apply them with real people through GRAND.”

Bishop notices the difference Story makes in the lives of the residents, “I notice that when she interacts with residents, she rests her hand on their shoulders and smiles with them. The residents are smiling back, and you can just see it. Some are blind, but they can still see that.”

Story feels that her online graduate portfolio (something required of every student in several classes at EHS) set her apart from her competition for the scholarship. “It gave me a chance to show that I had really done something instead of just saying I had. They could see my work in the smiles on the residents’ faces.”

Story said she feels ready to move forward. “I have more confidence as a public speaker. I know that I can do things that I want to do, and they are going to work out.” Story said.

When Story moves on to ETSU, she said there are many things she will miss. “Band, my teachers, and the connections I have made.” But there are many things she said she will never forget about her days at EHS, “My teachers treated me like a person. They know that all students have different situations, but they treat us like individuals.”

“Education is learning your own way so that it sticks.” Story said. “It doesn’t just have to be from set material, it can be through life. Education can come in a variety of ways because every student is different.”

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