The program for the day was the Rotary Foundation of Knoxville Scholarship Awards Committee presentation of college scholarships to two area high school graduates. RFK Member Ray Mowery presented the program on behalf of the Committee. Ray noted the hard work and excellent leadership of Committee Chair Jennifer Sepaniak. He noted that all of the Committee members seemed to enjoy serving on the Committee and the process of meeting and selecting scholarship award recipients, and encouraged all Rotary Club of Knoxville members to try to serve on the Committee at some point.
Ray introduced three past scholarship award recipients who attended the meeting, Abby Ann Ramsey and Linnea Johnsen, who are both attending the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and Esther McFall who is attending the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.
Ray briefly reviewed the history of the Rotary Foundation of Knoxville Scholarship Awards Program. In 1929, the Rotary Club of Knoxville initiated a student loan fund, which provided loans for deserving area high school students with financial needs. Loans were repaid and funds loaned again. Several years ago the Club discontinued the loan program and began the scholarship program. Today’s scholarship awards are for $20,000 each spread over four years. There are four named scholarships, endowed by current or former RCK members. Scholarships can be named and endowed with a $50,000 contribution. One of the scholarships awarded today is the Samuel L. and Juanita Weaver Scholarship.
The Committee reviewed thirty-six detailed scholarship applications from area high school students. Six were chosen for in-person interviews with the Committee. All of the six were accomplished, poised and worthy applicants. The Committee chose two of the six students interviewed to receive the RFK Scholarship Awards.
Ray first introduced a remarkable young man, Davyn Mengeling, the recipient of the Samuel L. and Juanita Weaver Scholarship. He is a graduate of Hardin Valley Academy and was joined at the meeting with his parents, Matthew and Stephanie Mengeling. He intends to attend the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Tickle College of Engineering, seeking a degree in Computer Science. He hopes to work through Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Cybersecurity.
Davyn is a childhood cancer survivor. He spoke eloquently in thanking RCK for the scholarship award and thanking his parents for their love and support over the years. Davyn views the many largely physical and financial obstacles that he and his family have dealt with over the years as challenges that have made him the person that he is today.
Ray next introduced Lily Plewniak, accompanied by her parents, Mike and Elizabeth Plewniak. Lily is a graduate of Farragut High School and will attend the University of Tennessee as well. She intends to seek a double major in Graphic Design and Business Management. Her dream is to open a coffee shop and art gallery in Knoxville. She has been very active in numerous service activities, including working at a food pantry in New York for six weeks. She is a very busy and accomplished young lady. Lily remarked how much she appreciated the RFK Scholarship Awards Committee interview process. She said that she felt supported, uplifted and encouraged by the Committee members.
Davyn and Lily both spoke with poise, confidence and eloquence. They are already better public speakers than a lot of us. They both expressed sincere gratitude for the RFK scholarships helping them enter college debt-free. Young people like these are the reason for the RFK Scholarship Program. They will represent us well.