ETSU announces Roan Class of 2024

Published 7:55 am Thursday, February 13, 2020

JOHNSON CITY — The Roan Scholars Leadership Program has selected eight high school seniors for the incoming Roan Class of 2024. Those students will join 24 returning Roan Scholars at East Tennessee State University this fall as part of the prestigious four-year scholarship program.

“2020 is a milestone year for the Roan Program, as it marks the 20th anniversary of the first class entering ETSU,” said Scott Jeffress, Roan director. “The Roan Program has established a tradition of recruiting to ETSU outstanding young leaders who have already demonstrated commitment to leadership excellence in a variety of ways. We continue that tradition of excellence with this newest class of Roan Scholars.”

The Class of 2024 has achieved state, national, and even international recognition for their passions, founded philanthropic projects, competed at the highest levels as student-athletes, undertaken entrepreneurial endeavors and served their communities. Jeffress says these eight scholars represent the Roan values of leadership excellence and impact and were selected from among nearly 100 nominees in 27 counties across Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina.

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The newest Roan Scholars are:

Gavin Bentley (D-B EXCEL, Kingsport): Robotics has provided Gavin Bentley the opportunity to learn, lead and grow other leaders. He is currently CEO of his high school’s underwater robotics team, which has competed at the international level. He shares his love of robotics as an intern at STREAMWORKS, a non-profit supporting K-12 STEM education. Bentley has received an award of excellence from the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists and was named to the inaugural list of the Appalachian Highlands Twenty Under 20. He also practices tae kwon do and plays piano.

Shanna Hensley, principal of D-B EXCEL, says “Gavin has been much more than just a generator of ideas. He has created a system of longevity for the programs he has founded … instilling processes and leadership within the younger students to take up the mantles for programs.”

Cade Campbell (Homeschooled, Bristol, Tenn.): The natural world is Cade Campbell’s inspiration. He has shared that love with countless individuals — be it through leading hikes at Steele Creek Park and Roan Mountain State Park, volunteering as a naturalist at the Blue Ridge Discovery Center and Bays Mountain Park, or sharing his nature photography and writing via his social media channels and website. He has obtained certifications as both a Tennessee Volunteer Naturalist and Virginia Master Naturalist and is currently working on his Eagle Scout Service Project.

Aaron Floyd, executive director of the Blue Ridge Discovery Center, says, “Cade, single-handedly, through his passion and communication skills, inspired (others) by making a variety of fascinating discoveries in our region. This is a phenomenal achievement for a 17-year-old.”

Emily Casteel (North Greene High School, Greeneville): The importance of agriculture and agricultural education have been a defining aspect of Emily Casteel’s high school experience. She is an eight-year 4-H member and four-year member of her high school’s FFA chapter. Currently the president of her FFA chapter, she was awarded a scholarship to attend the National FFA Washington Leadership Program. She has owned and operated a fresh egg business since 2014, an extension of her 4-H poultry project. An aspiring teacher, Casteel served as the student representative for the Greene County Board of Education and volunteers two mornings a week in a second grade classroom at Baileytown Elementary School.

“When she makes a decision to participate in or be part of an activity she follows through,” says Chuck Michel, agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor at Emily’s high school. “She has been a loyal and unwavering leader.”

Sally Chikomb (Dobyns-Bennett High School, Kingsport): Sally Chikomb is a four-year member and current captain of the award-winning Dobyns-Bennett Color Guard. She is actively engaged in numerous student organizations, including HOSA and Beta Club, and has participated in S.H.O.U.T Youth Leadership and the Y.E.L.L.! Mayor’s Youth Council. She has worked to support an orphanage in Africa where her parents work, including raising $1,600 for school supplies.

“Sally does and will continue to make a lifelong impact on those around her,” says Sandi Nelson, school counselor at Dobyns-Bennett. “She will leave big shoes to fill. I look forward to seeing all the ways she will contribute to our world.”

Ronquille Joyner (David Crockett High School, Jonesborough): Actor, athlete and community volunteer — Ronquille Joyner values creativity, including acting in local plays and writing and directing his own skits. He is a three-sport athlete, participating in football, basketball, and track and field. He currently serves as a student representative to the Washington County Board of Education and has volunteered at the Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association Food Pantry for more than a decade.

Lauren Chandley, a science teacher at David Crockett High School, says Joyner “is one of the most exceptional students I have encountered throughout my teaching career. Peers think very highly of him and his personality brightens up a room when he walks in.”

Keaton Smith (Daniel Boone High School, Gray): Keaton Smith has emerged as a leader both on the cross-country course and in his high school. He has run cross-country all four years, serving most recently as co-captain of the Daniel Boone varsity team. Smith is a four-year member of Student Council, HOSA and FCA. He enjoys the outdoors, including mountain biking, skiing and hiking. “Keaton is an exceptional young man who is driven by his desire to do good in the world,” says Karin Orchard, a teacher at Keaton’s high school. “He notices the people around him as fellow human beings and is not afraid to act to help resolve a need that they may have.”

Lexi Vance (Mountain Heritage High School; Burnsville, N.C.): Lexi Vance is founder of the “Doing the Good” initiative at her high school, which promotes philanthropic projects. The group has developed a strong relationship with a local senior nursing home, where high school students connect with residents on a weekly basis. She is president of her high school’s Business Leaders of America chapter and a longtime volunteer for Relay for Life. Vance is a multi-sport athlete, having played volleyball, softball, basketball and soccer at the high school level.

“Lexi is one of the best leaders I have known,” says Samantha McClure, a counselor at Vance’s high school. She “makes everyone in the class feel important and included. Lexi cares about people, and that is what makes her a tremendous, unparalleled leader.”

Cadee Warren (Mitchell High School, Spruce Pine, N.C.): Cadee Warren is captain of her high school’s varsity cheerleading team and secretary of her senior class. Her cheerleading builds upon years of training as a competitive dancer. Warren is a four-year member of her high school’s chapters of Future Business Leaders of America and FCA, and she represented her high school at Tar Heel Girls State. She has been involved in numerous service projects, including participating in mission trips, assisting the elderly, and working at a STEM summer education camp. “Cadee’s commitment to improving and learning new, difficult tasks is uncontested,” says Zackery Snyder, a teacher at Warren’s high school. “When considering (her) bright future, I think of her most outstanding virtues: self-discipline, integrity, and an earnest nature.”

“It is remarkable to see how the Roan Program has grown over the last 20 years. These newest Scholars will eventually join the ranks of our nearly 70 alumni who are leading and serving throughout our region, the nation and the world,” said Louis H. Gump, founder of the Roan. “The program’s ability to select and develop these young leaders continues to depend upon a host of partners — including high schools that nominate outstanding students, our committee members who devote many hours to interviewing and selecting students, and our countless supporters who make financial gifts that support the program. None of this would be possible without them.”

The Roan Scholars Leadership Program empowers students to be leaders of excellence who will positively impact the ETSU campus, the region, and the world. The Roan offers a comprehensive four-year program of out-of-the-classroom experiences and opportunities designed to challenge and inspire students to grow and develop as future leaders. The scholarship also includes a financial award for tuition and fees, room and board, and books and supplies.

The Roan, which is funded primarily by private donations, was established by Gump in 1997. The first class of Roan Scholars entered in 2000; this year, “Roan 2020” celebrates the program’s 20th anniversary.

For more information, contact the Roan office at 423-439-7677 or, or visit the Roan website at