By Collin Brooks
Relief, that is the biggest feeling that Daniel Boone senior Connor McClelland felt when he received the e-mail that he’d been selected as one of eight members of the Roan Scholar Scholarship Leadership Program.
It was a rare emotion since his mother, Sonya Rattliff, passed away unexpectedly last April.
“That changed me a lot,” McClelland said. “But it was her and her memory and what she pushed me to do that got me where I am right now.”
Some of that relief came at the fact of knowing that he wouldn’t have to burden anyone with the cost of his schooling. After his mother passed away, his grandparents moved from West Virginia to Tennessee to be with McClelland and his two younger siblings, Mallory and Kyle.
And support like that, from family, friends, teachers, administrators and community helped to mold him into what earned the honor.
“A lot of what has given me a persistence here, is the community,” he said. “If I didn’t have those administrators in there, if I didn’t have my teachers, if I didn’t have the community in Fall Branch or my friends, I don’t know where I would be. Part of the strength I have is from the community.”
Losing his mother wasn’t easy for McClelland, and while the moment didn’t make him stronger he said the experience did.
“There was nothing good that came from that, except that it has made me into a person that understands a lot more than I ever thought that I could have,” he said.
Those understandings helped him be named, along with Katie Barlowe of A.C. Reynolds High School; Tiffany Cook of Cherokee High School; Larissa Copley of Grainger High School; Cierra Linka of South Greene High School; Austin Ramsey of Sullivan Central High School ; Iris Rubi Estrada Romero of Avery County High School; and Adam Rosenbalm of Tri-Cities Christian High School to join the other 22 returning Roan Scholars at ETSU this fall.
Each of those recipients will receive both a financial award and four years of customized experiences and opportunities, including international travel and study abroad, internships, workshops and seminars, alumni and community leader interaction, and other unique programs, all of which are focused on equipping students for leadership excellence and making a positive impact. In return, Roan Scholars are expected to seek and serve in leadership roles, and, after college, to continue leading and making a significant impact both in their chosen professions and in their communities.
McClelland applied for multiple scholarships but he hadn’t received any of them. He mentioned that he felt like his ACT score of 25 was a drawback.
“I never thought I would be able to get a full ride, because compared to some students, I don’t have the best ACT or best grades, but the good thing about this program is that they focused on leadership skills, and so it’s such an incredible opportunity,” he said.
An admitted idealist, he said that he enjoys involving himself in politics, which led him to getting involved in the student council at Daniel Boone.
“For me, a lot of this stuff isn’t about what accolades I can get from it, I am just trying to do it,” he said. “I am just trying to make a difference, I guess.”
McClelland was a part of the student council movement at Daniel Boone that helped petition the Washington County Board of Education to move the Daniel Boone graduation to the Mini-Dome.
And some of that fight filters back to his mother.
“She pushed me to have good grades in high school and she pushed me to be involved and that is how I’ve gotten to where I am,” McClelland said. “As much as I wish I could go back and she was here now, I wouldn’t be the man I am unless that happened. I wish I could go back and that wouldn’t have happened and I could be the person I am today, but there is so much about life in general and family and people and just appreciating things, that I didn’t understand.”
Now he is hoping that he can help other people understand as he hopes to pursue a law degree after his time at ETSU, in order to help others. McClelland — an Eagle Scout — said that he has always been passionate about helping other people.
“That was one thing that kind of formed me,” he said. “Because I care about helping people and making sure that I can do things for others and I believe you can make a difference.”
That is something that his mother instilled in him and if she could be here now, he knows that she would be smiling.
“What really hurts me is that a lot of the things that I have accomplished have been since she has been gone,” MC said. “If she would have been there when I got that e-mail, saying ‘Welcome to the Roan Scholar Program’ she would have cried, probably for an hour. Because she would be proud, I know she would be proud.”