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Completing the circle in Briceville

Coal Creek Scholars are pictured with Briceville Elementary School fourth and fifth graders during “Coal Creek Scholars Day.” Not only did students get to hear from the scholars, but also got a visit from Santa AND were able to wear pajamas to school (it was Pajama Day.)
The Coal Creek Scholars program began as a dream for an unbroken circle where Briceville students can participate in K-12 community service projects to celebrate their heritage and qualify for college scholarships.

In return, they agree to inspire Briceville fourth and fifth graders to continue that tradition.

The unbroken circle was on display Monday, Dec. 18, when 13 college students or graduates from Briceville told this year’s fourth and fifth graders the importance of going to college during the 16th annual Coal Creek Scholars Day event.

Casey Swindall, Frances-Lee Dougherty, and Kyle Leinart told how their college degrees have enabled them to own their own businesses, thus helping them live the American Dream.

Jessica Hays McKinney told how she used her Coal Creek scholarship to go to East Tennessee State University — she is now the fifth-grade teacher at Briceville School.

Jessica was a fifth-grade student when we first assessed the health of Coal Creek by documenting what lives in it in August 2000 during a visit by Congressman Zach Wamp.

The following spring, her class was recognized for documenting Coal Creek history in a Resolution from the Tennessee Senate. She qualified for her scholarship by conducting research to assist Dr. Eirug Davies of Harvard University in his book, “The Welsh of Tennessee.”

As a graduate of Briceville School with a master’s degree in education, she is uniquely qualified for her current position — you can’t ask for a better role model than that for Briceville students.

Briceville School’s technology teacher Janis Bishop asked scholars if you need to be the smartest in your class to go to college, prompting them to respond in unison, “No.”

Developing good study habits to earn good grades is important, but so is treating others with respect.

When you are applying to college or for a job, you will be asked to provide references. How you treat others will likely be the determining factor in whether you receive a positive or negative recommendation.

Disrespectful students will never live the American Dream, regardless of their grades.

Amy Crabtree told how she is able to manage a career and a family as a result of the mutual respect she has with grades.

Amy Crabtree told how she is able to manage a career and a family as a result of the mutual respect she has with her boss.

When she had her second child, Amy went to her boss and asked if an arrangement could be worked out to enable her to work part-time in her job as a therapist, so she could spend more time with her family.

Her boss went to bat for her to make it happen due to the trust and respect they share.

After Jonathan Towe described his experience at medical school, a student asked if seeing body parts grossed him out. He said that’s the price you pay in saving lives. It’s why doctors command such high respect in society.

Peyton Jenkins described how he has always been intrigued with space travel, which is why he is using his Coal Creek scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee to study aeronautical engineering.

Andy Harness described how his degree enables him to provide a valuable service to his community as illustrated by the mini-documentary he produced for the Coal Creek Miners Museum and the video “Celebrating 16 Years with the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation.”

Drew Payne and Emily Hayes told how life has a way of throwing you a curve, but that’s no excuse for losing sight of your goal to finish college.

Having to take time off from college makes you appreciate the advantages of life with a college degree.

More than $400,000 has been invested in college scholarships to help 48 Coal Creek Scholars from Briceville go to college. Coal Creek Scholars are current and future nurses, engineers, doctors, teachers, therapists, scientists, lawyers, business leaders, business owners, as well as medical/computer/artistic specialists. Scholars in attendance today included Amy (Dugger) Crabtree, Casey (Prosise) Swindall, Frances-Lee (Braden) Dougherty, Andy Harness, Jessica (Hayes) McKinney, Phillip Smith, Kyle Leinart, Jonathan Towe, Emily (Patton) Hayes, Drew Payne, Peyton Jenkins, Anna Braden, and Katie Tidwell.