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The NISWONGER FOUNDATION, founded by Greeneville, Tennessee businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger, past its 100 scholar milestone with the selection of the Niswonger Scholars’ Class of 2024.  Currently, there are 19 Niswonger Scholars, with the newly selected students for 2020 bringing the total to 25.  The Foundation also has 77 Alumni of the program.

The Niswonger Foundation is leaving our mark in this region with the Niswonger Scholars. Niswonger Scholars are selected through a nomination process that seeks to identify the region’s best and brightest future leaders.  They are given the opportunity to attend the college or university that will best prepare them for success in their field of study, while participating in a four-year leadership program. Through an emphasis on leadership, business management, community service and ethical decision making, the Scholars are provided travel, training, internships, and personalized support to become model leaders and citizens of the world.  

Unique to any other scholarship in the United States, the goal of the Niswonger Scholars program is to identify and develop leaders for Northeast Tennessee. These students commit to returning, within seven years of completing their undergraduate degree program, to Northeast Tennessee to work in their chosen career one year for each year they receive the scholarship.  The plan is that by enabling these students to pursue their academic passion and by cultivating their leadership abilities, they will be committed to returning to their “roots” and being catalysts for the growth and improvement of their communities.

The six new Northeast Tennessee Scholars are Gustavo Castillo, Hamblen County; Derek Driskill, Cocke County; Samuel Hensley, Greene County; Macy Noe, Hamblen County; Mabel Olson, Sullivan County; and Brandolyn Thomas, Unicoi County.

Gustavo  Manuel Castillo is a senior at Morristown East High School. He is a member of Beta Club and participates in the TRIO program at Tusculum University.  He is a member of the Psychology Club, Interact Club, PSI Alpha High School National Honor Society and as class President in his Student Council.  He received state recognition twice in the Talent Identification Program.  He was a participant in Tennessee American Legion Boys State, where he was elected House of Representatives Minority Leader.  He was selected for Youth Leadership of Morristown. Gustavo is an avid sports fan and is a starter for the Varsity Soccer and Football teams at Morristown East High.  He is the son of Sara Perez.

Derek Ryan Driskill is a student at Cocke County High School. He serves as National Honors Society president, Beta Club secretary, Key Club Treasurer, and team captain for Scholars Bowl.  He is a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mu Alpha Theta, ACT+30 Club, and Walters State Community College Spanish Honors Society. Derek is team captain of the cross-country team, and the track team at Cocke County High.  He has received awards in AP European History, AP United States History, SDC Pre-Calculus, Honors Physics, and he was a Boys’ Nation Finalist.  He is the son of Randy and Angel Driskill.

Samuel J.O. Hensley attends South Greene High School.  His honors include, recipient of WoodmenLife Chapter 111 American History Award, Published Writer for The Greene County Pioneer, fifth place in Public Speaking at Tennessee Future Business Leaders of America State Conference, and Andrew Johnson Women’s Club 2018 Division IV short story competition winner. He serves as president of his senior class, an officer in the Technology Club, and an officer in Future Business Leaders of America.  He is a member of National Honors Society, Student Council, SGHS Talent Search, prom committee, and National Society of High School Scholars. Sam has been the announcer for various school events, such as, baseball, softball and pep rallies and serves as the baseball statistician and manager.  He is the son of Tommy Hensley and Elizabeth Murray.

Macy Danielle Noe is a senior at Morristown West High School with a 4.0 GPA.  Macy serves as Student Body president, Mu Alpha Theta president, ALA Girls State Delegate, Student Congress on Policies in Education Delegate, Beta Club secretary, and Team Captain of Scholars Bowl.  She was selected to serve on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. She is a member of the Speech and Debate Club, Morristown Youth Leadership, and Science Club. Macy is the daughter of Kathy and David Noe.

Mabel Baleigh Olson is a student at Sullivan East High School. She is Student Council president, Homecoming Chair, SkillsUSA CAD president, and Mu Alpha Theta secretary/treasurer. She is a Peer Tutor for Math Students.  She is a member of National Honors Society, Beta Club, and is a senior leader on the Sullivan East Lady Patriot Basketball Team.  Her awards include, third in technical drafting at SkillsUSA State Competition, and a Certificate of Merit in Personal Finance, CAD 1, and CAD 2.  She was nominated by her principal for the EPIC Award. She was recognized by Middle Tennessee State University for outstanding academic dedication as a freshman, to be a part of the True Blue 100.  Macy is the daughter of Melissa Pope and William Olson.

Brandolyn Ashe’ Ruth Thomas attends Unicoi County High School. She serves as Student Body president, and previously as vice president. She is the Mock Trial Varsity Lead Attorney, Drama Club vice president, and team captain of varsity tennis.  She is a member of National Honor Society, Beta Club, S.A.D.D. (Students Against Destructive Decisions), and Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy.  She has been honored with the following awards: Member of the Year Award by the Tennessee Association of Student Councils; and UCHS Presidential Award and Administrator Award. She was voted Most Valuable Member of Mock Trial by the Tennessee Bar Association. Brandolyn is the daughter of Randy Thomas.

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