These area graduates are paving the way to success by honing in on their talents and passions, and turning them into something big. What’s putting them on the map? Read about it here.
By Candice Graham
Planning for Success
Shelby M. Wade | East Hamilton School, Class of ‘11
With Shelby Wade’s penchant for planning and organization, it only made sense that she majored in organizational communication at Middle Tennessee State University. During her time at MTSU, Shelby put her event planning skills to use with her involvement in Alpha Omicron Pi and many other campus organizations. After graduating in May 2014 – a full year earlier than anticipated – she began working at the Tennessee Aquarium as the evening events assistant manager and was soon promoted to partnership and sales representative. Shelby plans to pursue her MBA at UTC in the fall of 2015.
Courtney Pare Weil | Girls Preparatory School, Class of ‘07
When Courtney Weil turned to jewelry making as a hobby, she never could have known the success this passion would one day bring. Today, Courtney owns and operates all aspects of her handmade jewelry line, Crafts and Love, which is carried in more than 100 retailers across the country and internationally, ranging from Urban Outfitters to our local Blue Skies. Her product line has been featured in several magazines and digital publications as well. In addition to her successful jewelry production, Courtney graduated from Georgia Tech with an Environmental Engineering degree and also earned a master’s in public health from Emory University.
David Helton | Baylor School, Class of ‘11
A graduating football player at Duke University, David Helton was named the winner of the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy, recognizing him as the best in the country for combined academic success, football performance, and community leadership. Helton is the 25th recipient of this prestigious award, and received the trophy at the 57th National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner in New York City in December 2014.
On a Mission
Jordan Miller | Boyd-Buchanan School, Class of ‘08
A graduate of The Institute for Global Outreach, Jordan Miller received a B.S. in community development and a B.S. in biblical studies. With passions reaching far beyond the classroom, Jordan has participated in five mission trips to Uganda and this summer spent seven weeks there overseeing health care efforts at a primary school. Now back in the U.S., Jordan is pursuing her master’s degree in community development, specializing in children’s health care and working as Global Outreach Development International’s early education manager. Jordan’s long-term plans are to do full-time global mission work. After completing her master’s degree, Jordan plans to settle in Uganda full-time.
Playing for the Pros
Sammy Seamster | Ooltewah High School, Class of ‘09
Sammy Seamster’s athletic ability has made him a pro. In high school, he was a state champion sprinter and was named an All-State football player in 2008, all while keeping top grades. After graduation he went on to play football at Middle Tennessee State University, where he was named the university’s hardest working football player. Sammy graduated from MTSU in 2014 and was drafted by the Miami Dolphins where he plays cornerback.
Teaching for America
Matt Pirkle | Red Bank High School, Class of ‘09
While a student at Red Bank High School, Matt Pirkle had his eye on a career in education. Completing Red Bank’s Teaching Academy in high school, he next went on to pursue degrees in English and middle grades education from the University of Tennessee. After graduation, he was accepted into the very competitive Teach for America program and now works in Twin Lakes, New Mexico, at a public school on the Navajo Nation. While teaching, he has been working toward his master’s in elementary education at the University of New Mexico, where he will graduate in May. He has published an article in the UT alumni magazine and has been asked to work this summer in Phoenix training new Teach for America members.
Improving Patient Lives
Hunter King | Grace Baptist Academy, Class of ‘11
A desire to improve patient lives through the development of new medical technologies drives Hunter King in his Ph.D. pursuit. Graduating this spring with a degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Memphis, his next step is to attend the University of Tennessee Health Science Center for his M.D. and Ph.D. Even though he’s yet to begin med school, he has already helped develop a risk stratification platform and protocol for patients who are in septic shock. Ultimately, he plans to be a physician and a researcher whose focus is product development.
Mad about Music
Kylie Sanzo | Hixson High School, Class of ‘14
An upcoming sophomore at Belmont University, Kylie Sanzo is serious about music. Not only is she a violinist in the Belmont University Chamber String Ensemble, she also plays the bass drum in the Vanderbilt University Spirit of Gold Marching Band. Outside of her school endeavors, she works part-time at the Belmont University Curb Event Center as a crew member on the Event Services Operations Team. In addition, she recorded her first single as a country artist last September, titled “Just Me and You,” and soon after completed her first extended play (EP), Paradise, which she released on iTunes. Her future goals are to graduate with a music business degree in 2018 and to work with a publishing company.
Andrew Scarbrough | McCallie School, Class of ‘05
An online innovator, McCallie graduate Andrew Scarbrough returned to Chattanooga in 2009 to start the online marketing firm Delegator.com with local entrepreneur Stephen Culp. As Delegator continues to grow, Andrew now focuses most of his time on a newer e-commerce venture, PriceWaiter.com. PriceWaiter makes buying and selling better, starting with a Name Your Price platform that makes negotiation fast, simple, and private – for any retailer, anywhere on the web. In 2014, PriceWaiter added hundreds of retailers, grew user accounts from 9,000 to more than 60,000, and raised more than $1 million in capital. Andrew also co-founded Causeway in 2012 and currently serves on the board of directors and as chair of the Technology Committee.
From Doodles to Fine Design
Ellen Scott Kessel | Chattanooga Christian School, Class of ‘05
Ellen Kessel’s childhood doodling is paying off. After taking Advanced Placement art at Chattanooga Christian, getting a fine arts degree in printmaking at the University of Tennessee, studying fashion design at Parsons The New School of Design in New York City, and assisting in boys’ design at OshKosh B’Gosh, she is putting her creativity to work at Ralph Lauren in New York City. As the assistant concept designer for Ralph Lauren Childrenswear, she helps create the mood, researches trends, and designs accessories for budding little fashionistas.
Kellie Mueller | Silverdale Baptist Academy, Class of ‘10
Kellie Mueller has always wanted to spend her life making art. After graduating from Silverdale Baptist Academy, she followed her dream by majoring in graphic design and minoring in illustration at Middle Tennessee State University. On the side, she successfully built a photography and graphic design business that has since allowed her to travel within the U.S. and to Germany to work with clients. Kellie has won several design awards while at MTSU, including a Gold Advertising Award (formerly known as the ADDY) for a poster series designed for the Ad Council. She graduates in August of 2015 and is excited about her future in design.
An Olympic Pursuit Laquisha Jackson | Howard High School, Class of ‘13
Laquisha Jackson has her eye on the Olympics. A Howard High School alum and a junior at the University of Missouri, Laquisha has been running toward the Olympic Games her whole life. The most decorated track star in Tennessee high school history, she won the Mountain West Conference Championships in the 100- and 200-meter dashes while running for San Diego State University. She recently finished the indoor season at the University of Missouri, breaking two school records in the 60-meter dash. Moving to the outdoor season, she’s hoping to break not only the school records, but the national records as well. She plans to graduate in 2016 and pursue graduate school.
Bridging the Cultural Gap
Aaron Crawford | Central High School, Class of ‘08
Aaron Crawford’s one-year exchange program, organized through the University of Tennessee and Toyo University, was just the beginning of his cross-cultural journey. After graduating from the University of Tennessee in 2012 with a degree in language (Japanese) and world business, Aaron immediately packed two suitcases and returned to Japan, this time to Tokashiki Island. On a tiny island with only 700 residents, he uses his passion for cultural understanding to encourage students to broaden their own horizons and teaches English through the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program.
Leading the Way to Health
Lydia Geabou | Heritage High School, Class of ‘13
University of Georgia student Lydia Geabou is dedicated to her goals in the medical field. During her sophomore year, she accepted a research assistantship in the clinical neuroscience lab and got involved in UGA’s neuroscience organization. In addition, she was involved in the establishment of the first pre-osteopathic student organization on campus. Last summer, Lydia volunteered at Erlanger in the breast health center. The experience at Erlanger further fueled her desire for a career in medicine. In the future, she would like to use her experience and education to provide medical care for others through mission trips.
Striving for Greatness
Bryce Thomas | Notre Dame High School, Class of ‘02
Bryce Thomas graduated magna cum laude from Carson Newman College with a degree in business administration. He then joined *Northwestern Mutual Chattanooga as a financial representative in 2006. During his first year with Northwestern Mutual, he achieved top honors for a new financial representative. In his second and third years, he qualified for the top 10 in the company’s southern region gold and silver categories. In 2010, he was second in the South and third in the platinum category in the entire company. Thomas became Managing Director in 2012.
*Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI, and its subsidiaries.
Leading in Technology
Strat Parrott | Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, Class of ‘03
For the past six years, Strat Parrott has grown his small digital agency into an international technology and design consultancy, helping a growing group of Fortune 100 and 500 clients while maintaining local clients in and around the Southeast. He recently developed a touchscreen wall installation for a prominent, locally-headquartered insurance company. He has also traveled to Japan to work with an energy drink company to facilitate the creation of an event app delivering event and transportation schedules and ticket sales. The project broke several records and social norms in Japan by creating one of the first widely-used services to purchase tickets outside of national chains.
Pursuing a Doctorate Patrick O’Brien | Collegedale Academy, Class of ‘11
A spring 2015 graduate of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Patrick O’Brien double majored in physics with a biophysics concentration and chemistry with a biochemistry concentration. He was a member of the UTC cross country and track and field team for four years, and received the Dayle May Award for the male athlete with the highest GPA. In addition, he competed on the all-academic team six out of seven semesters. In the fall, Patrick will attend Yale University where he has been accepted into an interdisciplinary doctoral program focusing on biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology. After graduation, he hopes to go into academia or the tech industry.
Damon J. Gillespie | Center for Creative Arts, Class of ‘12
The lights of New York City have a new star in singer/dancer Damon Gillespie. After graduating from CCA, Damon set off to Chicago where he studied musical theater before auditioning for Broadway’s Newsies. After booking the tour, he moved to NYC on a week’s notice and has been performing in the city for nearly a year. A versatile dancer, Damon grew up performing hip-hop, but his strongest genres are tap and jazz. In 2012, he won second runner-up in the national ACT-SO competition for tap dancing. Next up for Damon is a sketch on the TV show Inside Amy Schumer and a part in a new Broadway-potential musical that is yet to be disclosed.
Dancing in the City
Abbe Gatlin | Cleveland High School, Class of ‘05
After high school, Abbe Gatlin set out for the theatre capital of the world – New York City – when she was only 19 years old. There, she started looking into musical theater, and fell in love with the singing and storytelling that it offers. She soon finished up her Musical Theater degree at Birmingham Southern, and packed up again for NYC, this time auditioning for, and landing roles in, classics such as CATS and Singin’ in the Rain. She has performed twice in the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall, and danced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She’s currently performing in the domestic tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and has her eye on Broadway.