Serving Those in Need
Dirisha Caslin | Brainerd High School, Class of 2006
Dirisha has persistently pursued her passion to help others in need. In 2010, she graduated Cum Laude from Tennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville, with a bachelor’s degree in social work. During her undergraduate studies, she served as secretary of TSU’s Social Work Club and was a dedicated member of the National Association for Black Social Workers organization. She is currently a care coordinator at Johnson Mental Health Center, where she provides case management services to individuals with mental health needs, advocating on their behalf. Dirisha’s long-term goal is to own and operate a nonprofit group home that provides services to women with children and helps improve the lives of people she serves.
Shaping a Better Future at Home and Abroad
Katherine Cherry | Girls Preparatory School, Class of 2007
A graduate of the University of Georgia’s international affairs and English programs, Katherine Cherry is now the Manager of International Government Relations and Public Affairs at the Coca-Cola Company. She oversees the company’s community investments and social enterprise efforts with a special focus on human rights, sustainable agriculture, and millennial engagement. Katherine leads Coca-Cola’s partnership with the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community, a network in 169 countries for young leaders with a passion for social entrepreneurship. She also co-led the successful proposal for a new Paid Parental Leave Policy in the United States for all new parents at Coca-Cola – moms, dads, adoptive and foster – fully inclusive of LGBT partners. Katherine is also a co-founder of ‘Georgia Artists for Progress’ a nonprofit that bridges the gap between Georgians and politics through art.
Pushing the Envelope of Discovery
Andrew Hard | St. Andrew’s-Sewanee, Class of 2006
Following his 2010 graduation with honors from The University of Chicago, Andrew joined CERN in Geneva, Switzerland and the ATLAS Experiment’s successful search for the Higgs boson particle. The work became the basis for his doctoral research. He earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 2016 and is now a software engineer with Google, where he is working on applying machine learning techniques to improve the Google keyboard experience.
Giving the Gift of Theatre
Sarah Van Deusen | Baylor School, Class of 2012
After graduating from Wittenberg University in 2016, Sarah Van Deusen is now following her dream as a member of the Barter Players of Abingdon, Virginia. The Barter Players visit Baylor School annually. Their many performances during her time at Baylor inspired her to become a professional actor. Sarah enjoys being part of a troupe that views theater as service rather than just entertainment. Sarah views it as a gift to be able to bring theater to folks who may not have exposure to the arts otherwise.
Making a Reel Impact
Benjamin Murphy | Cleveland High School, Class of 2011
Ben was awarded the top research project for the College of Communication and Information in 2015 at the University of Tennessee during his senior year. That same year, he had award-winning films screened at the Nashville Film Festival. In 2016, he was awarded the American Cinema Editors Internship (only two are selected every year), joined the Motion Picture Editors Guild for union working editors, and went on to work as an assistant editor on The LEGO Batman Movie for Warner Bros. Entertainment. Currently Ben is an assistant editor at Warner Animation Group.
Protecting the Environment Through Education
Lisa East | Hixson High School, Class of 2004
After serving as a student organizer in environmental nonprofits, Lisa attended graduate school to research the social dimensions of environmental problems and to help communities devastated from pollution and land loss related to fossil fuel extraction. She has been published in the journals Environmental Communication, Journal of Appalachian Studies, and Humanity and Society. She is currently pursuing her PhD in environmental sociology at the University of Tennessee by completing her doctoral dissertation on the historical development of the oil industry in the United States. In recognition of her research promise, she was awarded UTK’s Yates Dissertation Fellowship in 2015. Lisa currently teaches at UTK and is passionate about educating students on the sociological perspective. She plans to become a professor after obtaining her PhD.
Preserving Culture and Identity
Zach Adamz | Soddy Daisy High School, Class of 2006
A PhD student at the University of Texas, Zach is researching diasporic Koreans in the former Soviet Union. He has travelled across the U.S. and the Pacific giving lectures and presenting at conferences on the socio-cultural adaptations of Koreans living beyond the peninsula. He recently spent three weeks in South Korea and the Russian Far East participating in the opening of a new Russian-Korean History Museum in Ussuriysk (Russia). He will return to the museum in Russia this fall for the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the 1937 deportation of Koreans from the Russian Far East. Zach earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human and social geography from Brigham Young University and the University of Kansas, respectively.
Empowering Young Entrepreneurs Through Education
Hardy Farrow | The McCallie School, Class of 2009
Hardy attended George Washington University and graduated in 2013. He is currently the executive director of Let’s Innovate through Education (LITE) Memphis, where he works with minority students in Memphis to launch entrepreneurial ideas. Through LITE Memphis, students receive entrepreneurial training from the age of 17 until 25 through coaching, funding, and internships. Hardy was named to Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30” in Education in 2017. He was also recognized by Forbes in 2016 as a global semifinalist for one of the top 20 changemakers in the world in their Change the World competition. As a first year teacher in the Teach for America program, Hardy was also the recipient of the National Innovation in Teaching award.
Ruling in Her Favor
Talley Wood | Red Bank High School, Class of 2008
After interning at The Bonner Group, a political fundraising organization in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2011, Talley graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wake Forest University. She finished her post-graduate work at Duke University School of Law in 2015. While at Duke, she was the managing editor of the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy. She also completed an internship at the Women’s Bar Foundation Family Law Project in Boston. Currently working as an associate attorney with Bass, Berry & Sims PLC in Nashville, she is living her dream. Talley works with the health care and food industries, among others, to help make her community a better place.
Bridging the Gender Gap in Engineering
Margaret Rox | Boyd Buchannan School, Class of 2012
Margaret is currently pursuing her doctorate in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University. She graduated with top honors from Lipscomb University in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Margaret plans to pursue a career in surgical robotics. She recently taught an engineering class at Harpeth Hall, a private school for girls in Nashville, by helping them design and build small engineering projects. Her passion for engineering originated in her high school physics class, where she learned real world applications for both math and science. She hopes to continue developing meaningful projects and building for the rest of her life. She also hopes to foster the same spirit of innovation in the next generation of female students.
Kenna Rewcastle | Notre Dame High School, Class of 2011
After graduation from Notre Dame, Kenna attended the University of Tennessee as a Haslam Scholar, where she was honored as a Torchbearer upon her 2015 graduation. Kenna is currently a Fulbright Fellow at Lund University in Sweden, where she is studying the impact of climate change on the available food sources for reindeer herds managed by the Sami indigenous people. Kenna is an ecosystem ecologist, studying the big picture function of natural systems, especially in the face of climate change. Currently, her work focuses on carbon-cycling in the Arctic. Kenna has also worked in labs in China, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Denmark.
Promoting the Flow of Information
Kendi Anderson Rainwater | Chattanooga Christian School, Class of 2009
After high school, Kendi spent a year in Ethiopia working at an HIV clinic with children who were directly impacted by the disease. Upon her return to the U.S., she attended Covenant College and graduated with a degree in English in 2014. After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Kendi earned an internship at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, after which she was hired. For the past two years, she has worked as the education reporter, with a focus on upholding the standards of accountability in the public school system. She covers topics including safety, equity, and achievement striving to expand opportunity for students. In April 2017, Kendi was also named Tennessee’s Journalist of the Year by the Tennessee Associated Press.
A Mutual Interest in Medicine
Ryan Hacherl & Caitlin Craft | Heritage High School, Class of 2012 & 2015
Despite living down the street from one another, Ryan and Caitlin did not get to know each other until they met at the University of Alabama. Both were on the premedical track, but studying different disciplines. Ryan graduated with a degree in chemistry and Caitlin is finishing up in the neuroscience program, graduating in May 2018. Ryan and Caitlin both have a passion to serve by improving health care. Ryan is a current medical student at Mercer University School of Medicine, and Caitlin hopes to attend Mercer in the fall of 2018. In his free time, Ryan works on writing a guide of Macon’s resources, so that local physicians will be better equipped to refer their patients. Caitlin is currently volunteering with Amedisys Hospice services as a companionship visitor to provide a friend for those in need.
Advancing Communities in the Heart of Africa
Ryan & Anna Carmichael | Walker Valley High School, Class of 2008
While separately traveling to different countries in Africa during college, Ryan and Anna (Luzader) Carmichael were inspired by the need for ethical jobs, quality education, and access to fresh, affordable food in rural southern African communities. These needs led the couple to found One Heart Africa, a nonprofit that seeks to educate, equip, and empower such communities. Today, the Carmichaels live in Swaziland, Africa where they manage the organization’s sustainable farm project. It employs five locals and provides aquaponic-grown food for area orphans and vulnerable children. In addition to the farm, Ryan and Anna often visit One Heart Africa’s preschool in neighboring Mozambique, which employs seven locals and strives to provide 100 three to five-year-olds with a free, quality education and access to clean water and daily meals.
A Passion For Leadership
Brandon McGee | Chattanooga Central High School, Class of 2008
After leading the JROTC First for Freedom Battalion at Chattanooga Central High School, Brandon attended the University of Tennessee where he led the crowd as a cheerleader. In 2011, he graduated from UT with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology. He continues to follow his passion for leadership and service today as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy. He credits his training and degree with helping him to become a successful Naval Officer, completing two extended deployments in the Middle East.
From the Football Field to the Medical Field
Austin Sanders | Bradley Central High School, Class of 2013
After graduating from Bradley Central High School and earning the Class 3A Tennessee “Mr. Football” title, Austin went on to attend the University of Tennessee as a student athlete on the Vols football team. During his collegiate career, he went to three bowl games and was part of the line that led the Vols to victory each time. He credits beating Georgia and Florida as one of his fondest memories during his senior season. Austin is set to graduate in May 2017 as a Vols Scholar, meaning he wears a torchbearer patch on his jersey for every game. He will receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in business and plans on pursuing a career in medical sales.
Paving the Way to Fewer Sick Days
Erin Hodges | Grace Baptist Academy, Class of 2002
At 14 years old, Erin Hodges decided she wanted to be a microbiologist and dreamed of working on the flu vaccine. After graduating from Grace in 2002, she received a degree in biology from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, then went on to earn a PhD in microbiology at Boston University, where she studied viruses. Now, nearly 20 years after her first biology class at Grace, her dream has come true. She currently works as a contractor in the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she helps monitor the spread of avian influenza viruses worldwide to ensure we have vaccines and medicine to keep people safe.
Professional Football and Philanthropy
Rico Council | The Howard School, Class of 2007
Rico played football all four years of high school and went on to play for Tennessee State University (TSU). During his freshman year, he was named to the All-Newcomer team and the Freshman All-American team. Rico was the team captain and an All-American player for three years. He was also named Defensive Player of the Year for the Ohio Valley Conference in his senior year of college. Throughout his college career Rico also worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Club of America. After graduating TSU in 2012, he went on to play professional football with the Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans. After his pro career, Rico returned to Nashville and began coaching linebackers at his alma mater, TSU.
Topping the Charts with a Powerhouse Voice
Lauren Alaina | Lakeview – Fort Oglethorpe High School, Class of 2013
Lauren captured America’s hearts when she appeared on Season 10 of “American Idol.” She has released two albums, including her latest, Road Less Traveled. This album was selected as one of Rolling Stone’s Most Anticipated Albums of 2017 and includes her first number one track. Lauren has been nominated for several Teen Choice Awards and CMT Music Awards, and she just received her first ACM nomination for New Female Vocalist of the Year. She has shared the stage with superstars including Alan Jackson and Carrie Underwood. She finished touring with Martina McBride earlier this year and will join Luke Bryan on his tour this summer. Lauren also appears regularly on the Grand Ole Opry stage, is one of Radio Nashville’s Rising Artists, and is one of CMT’s Next Women of Country.