East Tennessee Woman Becomes Haslam Scholar

A guest blog from Fulton Class of 2022 Project GRAD Scholar, Jahneulie West

Jahneulie West is the first student from Fulton High School in Knoxville to receive the prestigious Haslam Scholars scholarship, which covers tuition, fees, housing, and funding to support her individual research at University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK).

We met Jahneulie through Strong Women Strong Futures network member Project GRAD. Back in the fall of 2018, Jahneulie participated in a network initiative to test messages about postsecondary education, for which Project GRAD ran focus groups to get feedback.

During the focus group, Jahneulie showed great insight, initiative, and leadership. Afterwards, she began inquiring about other college and educational opportunities that were historically for upperclassmen.

Jahneulie went on to complete the Project GRAD Summer Institute, a coding camp with GRAD at Pellissippi during the school year, and two summer programs with the University of Tennessee Women in Business and Business Education for Talented Students, during the summer of 2020. Next, Jahneulie was selected as a Bank of America intern, where she served with The Restoration House, another member of the Women’s Fund Network. These opportunities gave her exposure and experience to win the prestigious Haslam Scholars scholarship.

Let’s learn more about this incredible young lady in her own words:

“When I was younger, I told my mom that I would be attending college and she wouldn’t have to pay a dime. Now in hindsight, my younger self had zero clue about just how expensive attending college would be, but I was determined to make it happen. Over a decade later with lots of hard work and taken opportunities, what started as comforting words to my mom became my reality.

As a first-generation American and college student, I never would have imagined having my current accomplishments under my belt with endless possibilities to come. I was one of two students chosen to represent Fulton High School in the 2021 Youth Leadership Knoxville cohort (The Best Class Ever). I was also one of two students chosen in Knoxville to participate in the Bank of America Student Leaders program. The Knoxville Area Urban League awarded me the Scholar of the Year Award this past May. Then just a month later I graduated as Salutatorian from Fulton High School in Knoxville, TN. All those accomplishments led into my most recent and most inspiring accomplishment – being named one of only fifteen Haslam Scholars of the 2022 cohort at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

I vividly remember talking to my mom the night that Ms. Xylina Marshall came to Fulton to discuss the honors programs at UTK as it made that much of an impact on me. Now one thing about me is that I always strive to accomplish the “impossible” and most times I’m ready to go for it, but that was not the case with the Haslam Scholars program. This seemed so lofty, and my fears of being an imposter started setting in. I know I work hard but sometimes that voice in my head tells me that I don’t belong somewhere, and I am an imposter. The number of times I have sat in a room and spent more time worrying about whether I’m sitting the right way, smiling the right way, or speaking the right way is sad. I came home that night and told my mom that for once I wouldn’t aim to be in the highest or most elite program that UTK had to offer and I internally criticized myself for using such “conceited” language, but it’s the truth and it’s my truth. I was willing to settle for a program that I wasn’t as excited about because I didn’t think I was worthy enough to be a Haslam Scholar.

All that changed – I decided to put myself out there and apply for the best! On March 6th, 2022, I received the call confirming that I would be a Haslam Scholar. Ever since that day, the voice inside my head that told me I couldn’t do it has remained silent. I am proud to be Fulton’s first Haslam Scholar and I know for a fact that I will not be the last. It may sound ridiculous to some, but earning this title and this scholarship showed me that all my hard work was not for nothing. It showed me that now is not the time to give up, but the time to press on.

This confidence carries on as I plan my future – I will be entering UTK with a major in computer science and a minor in entrepreneurship. I will be the CEO and founder of my own IT company specializing in individualized online education and application development services.

The college application process was one of the most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and discouraging experiences I have had thus far, but I learned that in the end it was all worth it. I would not be here today without the amazing support system of my family, Project GRAD Knoxville and my Fulton family. To everyone reading this, keep doing your best. Someone is watching, someone is seeing the effort that you are making, and what is meant to be yours will be. Have faith in whatever comforts you most and keep working and believing. I’ll end with a verse that kept me going and keeps me going in times of uncertainty.”

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

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