By Max Hrenda
Each year, schools throughout East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Western North Carolina nominate candidates for
East Tennessee State University’s Roan Scholarship program.
Throughout his career at Carter County Schools, Unaka High counselor Jonathan Minton has seen his share of “Dear John” letters from ETSU, which often begin with words like, “congratulations,” and then end with words like “unfortunately,” or “however.”
In previous years, none of Unaka’s applicants made it as far as the final interview.
So, when Unaka senior James Grindstaff brought Minton his letter-of-reply from the scholarship committee, he put on his best poker face.
“When I went and handed it to him, I was trying to keep a straight face so I wouldn’t let him know,” James said.
As Minton read through the letter, he saw ‘congratulations,’ and later told James that he thought, ‘Well, here we go again.’ He kept reading, and, eventually, he realized that James had been selected as Unaka’s first Roan Scholar.
“I was excited more than anything,” Minton said. “I was happy for James, his family, and the school. That’s what came to mind first. They had someone to represent them as a Roan Scholar.”
“I never, in a million years, thought I would have done it,” James said. “It’s a level of accomplishment I’ve never known.”