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The NISWONGER FOUNDATION, founded by Greeneville, Tennessee businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger, has selected five high school seniors to join the Niswonger Scholars program.  Currently, there are 20 Niswonger Scholars, with the newly selected students for 2015 bringing the total to 25.  The Foundation also has 52 alumni of the program. The most distinct feature of this Scholars program is that the Niswonger Foundation is refining the next generation of leaders committed to returning to Northeast Tennessee.

The Niswonger Foundation’s guiding philosophy of “Learn, Earn and Return” is firmly embedded in the Niswonger Scholars program.  The program takes the brightest young leaders in Northeast Tennessee, provides them the opportunity to attend the college or university that will best prepare them for their chosen career, and supplements that education with four years of leadership development activities. The plan is to see Niswonger Scholars come back to the region with not only strong earning potential, but an entrepreneurial spirit and overwhelming desire to return their talents and energy to this region. The goal is that at the end of their experience as Niswonger Scholars, they will embody the values most important to the mission of the Foundation:  exceptional leadership ability, exemplary personal character, and a strong commitment to building community.

The five new Northeast Tennessee Scholars are Courtney Johnson, Gatlinburg Pittman High School; Morgan Thomas, Science Hill High School; Zachary Ward, Volunteer High School; Matthew Widener, David Crockett High School and Trenton Yount, Hancock County High School.

Courtney Sherry Johnson is a student at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School.  She represented Gatlinburg-Pittman at Volunteer Girls State. She was selected to serve on the Board of Education. She has served as assistant director of the GPHS Drama Club. Courtney achieved the Sevier County’s Most Distinguished Young Woman award, Tennessee’s Most Distinguished Young Woman Overall Scholastics award, Magna Cum Laude on the National Latin Exam and Little Miss Sunshine award for the GPHS dance team. She enjoys volunteering with a variety of organizations in the Sevierville area and spending time with local nursing home residents. Her plans are to study pre-med and attend medical school. Courtney is the daughter of Michelle Johnson of Gatlinburg.

Morgan Alexandra Thomas is a student at Science Hill High School.  She has maintained a 4.0 grade point average.  She serves as junior varsity women’s soccer assistant, SHHS Youth Ambassador, Student Government representative and is a member of Mu Alpha Theta. She enjoys volunteering with Rotary Wheel, Girls on the Run, Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church and Second Harvest Food Bank. Her desire is to become a pharmacist. She is the daughter of Robert and Beth Thomas of Johnson City.

Zachary Tyler Ward attends Volunteer High School.  He is ranked first in his class and maintains a 4.0 grade point average.  He serves as Student Government president and is a member of Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta and participated in ETSU Talent Search. Zachary has volunteered with Holston Valley Medical Center, Surgoinsville Middle School’s Eagle 8k and Beta Club Parents Night Out. He plans to major in chemistry with the goal of becoming an anesthesiologist.  He is the son of Tonia Clark of Church Hill.

Matthew Hunter Widener is a student at David Crockett High School. He has served as vice president and president of the Creative Writing Club, sentinel of HOSA Chapter, sergeant-at-arms and treasurer of the Drama Club as well as being a member of the Beta Club, French Club, National Society of High School Scholars, and NJROTC. Matthew has volunteered with Antioch Baptist Church, Key Club, Ronald McDonald House and Johnson City Community Theatre. He plans to study pre-med with the goal of becoming a general surgeon. He is the son of Randal and Deena Widener of Johnson City.

Trenton Blake Yount attends Hancock County High School and maintains a 4.0 grade point average.  He is an active Honor Club 4H member where he serves as scout.  He is a certified lifeguard. He is a member of Student Council, Future Business Leaders of America, Spanish Club, Art Club, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America and the community based group Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).  Trenton enjoys volunteering with his 4H community and Cedar Grove Baptist Church.  He plans to study environmental engineering.  He is the son of Nathan and Jennifer Yount of Sneedville.

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