A recent graduate, Iris Rubi Estrada Romero is the first Avery High School student to earn the Roan Scholars award since the inception of the scholarship at East Tennessee State University in 1997.
Nearly 100 stellar students in more than 60 high schools were nominated, but Roan Steering Committee only selected eight students as its Class of 2021 for its Roan Scholars Leadership Program. Eligible students reside in 27 regional counties in northeast Tennessee, southwest Virginia and western North Carolina.
“We are extremely proud of Rubi and what she has accomplished being the first Roan Scholar ever from Avery. It speaks volumes to not only the kind of student she is but the character she has,” Avery County Schools Supt. David Burleson said.
Burleson noted that Rubi had some “pretty large shoes” to fill when she came to Avery High School and followed in the footsteps of her brother Isauro. Described as another wonderful student in the Estrada family, Isauro just recently graduated from Lees-McRae College.
“He is her biggest cheerleader as she is his. I have to really commend their family for their support of their children, and they have one more coming up [who is in elementary school] and we’re excited to see her get to high school,” Burleson said.
Burleson noted that Rubi is someone who leads by example, is the first to support the community and one who looks to give credit to others.
“Rubi in her comments about being a Roan Scholar always thanked everyone else,” Burleson said. “She never brought the spotlight on her. She thanked her teachers, her family, especially her brother, and it shows the caliber young lady Ruby is. She’s always looking to give credit to other people.”
At Avery High School, Rubi made it a goal to get more Latino students involved in clubs, school activities and the community, according to a release from East Tennessee State University announcing the incoming Roan Scholars:
Iris Rubi Estrada Romero has directed her efforts at Avery County High School toward a specific goal: to get more Latino students involved in clubs and school activities. Estrada herself is the first and only Latino member of her high school’s Student Government Association and the first Latino president of the school’s National Honor Society. To reach and encourage her fellow Latino students, Estrada believed that she also had to reach their families. To that end, she has spoken at a parents’ meeting about the importance of school involvement, made personal phone calls to the homes of rising freshmen about freshman orientation day, and volunteered to participate in a college information session for the Latino community.
“I get an amazing feeling when I know that I helped someone; the joy I find through service cannot be found anywhere else,” said Rubi, who moved away from Guerrero, Mexico with her family and arrived in Avery County as a “frightened” 7-year-old a decade ago, according to a recent profile in Carolina Mountain Life.
Libby Gragg, her college and career counselor, noted that Estrada has brought about change at her school – and in herself. “By senior year, Rubi has evolved into a humanitarian, a leader, an innovator and a motivator of the student body,” Gragg added.
The Roan Scholarship includes both a financial award and four years of customized experiences and opportunities, including international travel and study abroad, internships, workshops and seminars, alumni and community leader interaction, and other unique programs, all of which are focused on equipping students for leadership excellence and making a positive impact. In return, Roan Scholars are expected to seek and serve in leadership roles, and, after college, to continue leading and making a significant impact both in their chosen professions and in their communities.
“The Roan looks for young men and women with the capacity, desire and drive to become exceptional leaders – individuals who take initiative to identify, learn about, and address needs in their communities and mobilize others to join them in those efforts,” said Roan director Scott Jeffress. “Members of this newest Roan class embody those qualities and we are confident that for many years to come they will positively impact ETSU, this region and the world. “
A student’s potential for leadership excellence and lifelong impact is the distinguishing factor in his or her selection as a Roan Scholar by the Roan Steering Committee. The Roan, which is funded primarily by private donations, was established in 1997 by Louis H. Gump to attract the region’s most promising young leaders and develop each student’s unique leadership potential.
“This incoming class of Roan Scholars has already made a tangible positive impact on their schools and communities,” Gump said. “They exemplify the character and leadership talent we want to attract. We look forward to working with them and our other Scholars to enhance their skills so that they can have additional positive influence on ETSU, our area and the places where they will live.”
See more photos of Rubi below: