4th Annual Coal Creek Scholars Day
3 January 2006

Our favorite day of the year is Coal Creek Scholars Day when the Coal Creek Scholars in college meet with Briceville students to tell them, “Hey, if I can go to college, so can you!”  Every community needs leaders and we had a first-class group returning this year to inspire the Briceville School 4th and 5th graders to start now to make good grades, perform community service, and think about what you would like to be when you grow up.

Eight former Briceville students who are now attending college took their time and spoke to the children and answered their questions.   It is wonderful to watch them come back to the school each year even more poised and confident than the year before.  Four of the scholars attend Lincoln Memorial University, two attend Carson Newman, one attends University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and one attends Middle Tennessee State University.

Coal Creek Scholars with Briceville School
4th and 5th graders along with teachers
Ms. Poole and Ms. Carroll

Coal Creek Scholars
Back Row L to R:  Rocky Bailey, Andy Harness,
Frances Lee Braden, Hannah Scarborough
Center L to R:  Casey Prosise, Michele Lindsay,
Ashley Weaver  Seated:  Amy Dugger

We think the children are the hope for the future of Coal Creek.  If we get the students educated, they can take care of their own watershed.  When Briceville students see successful college students who were just a few years ago sitting in the very same desk where they are now sitting, it lets them know that they, too, can attend college in a few years.   

Also in attendance was Mark Fly, Professor of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Department at the University of Tennessee.  Professor Fly is a CCWF and Clinch River Trout Unlimited volunteer.  He told the students that he grew up in a a small rural area and has background that is not that different from theirs in many ways.  He urged them to find something they enjoy in life and make a career of it like he has done.

Reporter Bob Fowler from the Knoxville News Sentinel was there writing a story.  He stressed to the students that they need to listen to what the scholars have told them and study hard and be serious about going to college to improve their lives.  See Bob's article linked below.

Amy Dugger, a senior at LMU, presented us with one of the most rewarding commendations we can imagine.

You have to read what it says!!

Click on images below to enlarge more photos:

Link to copy of Bob Fowler's article in the Knoxville News Sentinel


Elementary students get lesson on college

BRICEVILLE - A few years ago, it was rare for a young person from this former coal-mining community tucked in the Cumberland Mountains to go to college.

Now a number of young residents are hitting the books in colleges and universities, all thanks to a nonprofit foundation.

Eight alumni of isolated Briceville Elementary School who are in college returned to their tiny alma mater Tuesday while on winter break.

All winners of Coal Creek Watershed Foundation scholarships, they came back for the foundation's annual Scholars Day.

They spoke to fourth- and fifth-graders seated at desks they occupied just a few years ago.

In brief remarks, each collegian repeatedly drove home the same messages: Study hard. Help your community. Consider college.

"Fifth-graders often don't listen to their teacher,'' foundation founder Barry Thacker said. "But when you have college students come in and say, 'Yes, this is the thing to do,' it does make a difference.''

Now in its fourth year, Scholars Day "provides an opportunity for these kids to begin to think about college. It opens a lot of doors for them,'' said Thacker, who spearheaded the Coal Creek Scholars Program.

The foundation was formed to improve the environment and living conditions around Coal Creek, which meanders past remote mountains that bear scars from decades of strip-mining.

Each year, the foundation awards a $10,000 scholarship to a Briceville area student. Other college-bound students also receive smaller stipends when donations make them possible, foundation spokeswoman Carol Moore said.

"You need to work hard, starting today, to get a scholarship,'' Amy Dugger told the elementary school pupils. "I wish someone had come and talked to me (about college) when I was your age,'' she said.

A senior psychology major at Lincoln Memorial University, Dugger was the foundation's first scholarship winner.

"College is a ton of work, but it's also a lot of fun,'' said another LMU coed, Michelle Lindsay.

Thacker gave the students another compelling reason to consider college.

"The more qualified you get for the job, the more money you'll make,'' he said.

Bob Fowler, News Sentinel Anderson County editor, may be reached at 865-481-3625

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