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Stay on top of your work

Nantglo scholar gives advice to younger students

The Coal Creek Watershed Foundation has awarded 45 scholarships to help students from Briceville attend college over the past 15 years. The post-graduate scholarships have helped one scholar go to law school, one to go to medical school, and another to launch a technology innovation firm. This year two scholarships were awarded $20,000. From left are: Anna Braden, Barry Thacker PE, and Samantha Campbell.
“Stay on top of your work,” are the words of advice 17-year-old Anna Braden of Briceville said she would offer current Briceville students who have — or who may at some point develop — an interest in pursuing a postsecondary education.

It is simple advice, and words learned from experience, Braden said in a phone interview Thursday.

Braden, who graduated from Anderson County High School with honors and distinction this May, is one of two recipients to win this year’s Nantglo scholarships.

The Nantglo scholarship is awarded annually by the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation (CCWF) to high school graduates who attended elementary school at Briceville.

To qualify for a Nantglo scholarship, students from Briceville are required to participate in CCWF’s community service projects and write an essay on ways to improve the quality of life in the Coal Creek Watershed.

“The CCWF has awarded 45 scholarships to help students from Briceville attend college over the past 15 years. Our postgraduate scholarships have helped one scholar go to law school, one go to medical school, and another to launch a technology innovation firm,” said Barry Thacker, founder of CCWF, during an award presentation in May.

This year, the scholarships totalled $20,000, with each student receiving $10,000.

“It’s honestly a blessing to be awarded this scholarship, what with college being so expensive. The expense makes it really hard on parents. Parents work to put their kids through school and the expenses continue getting higher,” commented Braden. “It’s not something you would expect coming from a small school — to get money to pay your way through school. I certainly didn’t expect it. I’m thankful.”

Braden confided that she did not start out making stellar grades in high school because, like many a teenager, she said she was still trying to find herself.

She did not begin thinking seriously about grades and about life post-high school until she got a part-time job. That is when Braden learned how to balance her schedule, and in her words, learned how “to stay on top” of her work.

“I didn’t do so great my freshmen and sophomore years in high school. I had a 1.9 GPA and really just didn’t think about pushing myself,” Braden said. “That changed when I got a job. I was motivated. I had to manage my time and I learned how to stay on top of my work.”

It was then that Braden turned things around and started performing better academically.

She also had the help of supportive teachers along the way who encouraged her to pursue her aspirations to go to college, major in business, and land a career in real estate or marketing.

Braden noted the help of two of her high school teachers who were most helpful: her computer teacher Jayme Smith and her Virtual Enterprise business teacher Heather Powell.

Her favorite class in high school was a business course she took called Virtual Enterprise, a class where students learn the ins and outs of how to create their own company.

Before taking the Virtual Enterprise class, Braden said she initially wanted to pursue a career in interior design, but discovered while taking the business class that business is a passion of hers.

“Real estate and marketing is the perfect combination. I still get to look at houses, so it’s similar to interior design and marketing can be creative,” she said.

As a requirement for eligibility, Braden had to participate throughout her entire time in the Anderson County School System in community service projects organized and sponsored by CCWF.

The organization offers several community service opportunities each year.

Of those, she named doing research on Coal Creek at the East Tennessee Historical Museum in Knoxville, picking up trash around the highways, and helping with the upkeep of historic Militia Hill in Briceville as the community service projects she took part in the most.

The community service project she liked best was going to the East Tennessee Historical Museum and viewing the newspaper clippings of Coal Creek in its heyday, when it was once a coal mining town.

“Things were different then from now. It’s interesting to see how much things have changed. It’s so different. The products they showed in the advertisements were interesting, [and] not like it is today,” said Braden.

Now a high school graduate, Braden says she plans to pursue a career in business and marketing, and go into real estate once she finishes her four-year degree.

After college, she says she may even consider going to graduate school and getting a master’s degree in business administration.

Braden’s additional piece of advice for current Briceville students is “try your best” because that is what Braden intends to do with the next chapter of her life — try her best.

Anna Braden is the daughter of Tony and Jeannie Braden, of Briceville.