Mission of Hope scholar brings message of hope

Tom KingFarragut, Feature

The Summer Botts story is compelling. Very compelling. From life in Elk Valley in Scott County to being a cum laude graduate of Tennessee Tech University this coming December. Graduating in three years. Dean’s List every semester. First-generation college student in her family. She’s 21. Poised beyond her years.

Summer was the guest at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Farragut. She was supposed to have been with us two weeks ago when Emmette Thompson, executive director of the Mission of Hope, spoke and received a check for $5,000 from the club. Summer was one of 12 students selected for Mission of Hope college scholarships three years ago. She missed our meeting with Emmette because on the way from Scott County a broken water pump on her car left her on the side of I-75 south. But she came back.

She is a Mission of Hope child, a child of rural Appalachia with not many options … until the Mission of Hope became part of her life.

Rotarian Ray Fisher, a former member of the Mission’s board of directors and a volunteer, introduced Summer and also introduced Shawna Dittrich, a former member of the Mission’s board who has been Summer’s mentor for three years.

Summer has grown up with and known about the Mission of Hope since elementary school when the Mission brought school supplies, clothes and Christmas gifts to the children in her rural community. “Yes, I’ve known about the Mission of Hope for a long time and it has been a part of my life,” she told us. “The Mission of Hope has opened the door to me for college and for what my life will be.”

She paused … and collected herself … and then said, “The Mission of Hope believed in me more than I believed in myself.”

What a powerful thing to say! Shawna choked up when she heard those words. Had Emmette been there, he would have choked up as well.

The Mission of Hope scholarship, combined with the Tennessee HOPE scholarship, has allowed Summer to be in college and earn a degree in sociology. “If you could see where I came from to where I am today you’d know why this is all so special to me,” she added.

Ray chimed in to say that Summer is a living example of the Mission’s focus on its scholarship program and its aim to break the cycle of poverty … “One student at a time.”

While at Tennessee Tech and in the summers, Summer has had a number of part-time jobs to help pay for things. She has been an intern at the Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center in Cookeville and a member of the Tennessee Tech Rotaract Club, a Rotary club for young students and professionals.

Her plan is to earn a master’s degree in social work from the University of Tennessee and enter that field to work with abused children.

“She is so poised for her age and for where she came from,” Shawna said. “She’s been interviewed on WBIR’s Live at 5 at 4 and by Hallerin Hilton Hill, and her poise and how she handled herself were unbelievable. She is simply a very special young lady.”

I asked Shawna why she used the word “special” about Summer and here’s what she said:

“Summer is very independent and she knows what she wants. She is very self-motivated and self-disciplined. She seeks out opportunities to grow and learn. Unlike so many young people today, she does not have a sense of entitlement and she goes after what she wants and works hard. She is not waiting on a handout.”

Special indeed!

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