Twenty-three seniors from 16 schools across southern and eastern Kentucky have been named “I Am UNITE” Scholarship recipients.

This is the second year for the scholarships, valued at $1,500 each. Funding is provided by the UNITE Foundation through private donations and proceeds from the annual National Rx Drug Abuse Summit.

“We are excited to be able to provide assistance to these students as they continue their education,” said Dan Smoot, UNITE president/CEO. “We had many very qualified youth submit applications. It was very difficult to make the final selections.”

To receive a scholarship, students must demonstrate a commitment to their school’s UNITE Club, personal contributions to his or her school and community, exemplify UNITE’s goals by living a drug-free lifestyle, and submit a written essay.

“There were several of the essays that brought a tear to my eye, not only because of what some of these students had been through, but how important it was for to them to not choose a lifestyle involving drugs,” said Debbie Trusty, UNITE education director. “They have exhibited the confidence that, no matter what life hands them, they want to rise above that.”

Many youth have had many obstacles thrown in their path.

“Some have had family members struggling due to addiction. Some had friends that they had lost to drug addiction. Some had absent parents due to addiction,” Trusty continued. “These students realize the devastation substance abuse has caused in our area and are choosing to exemplify, by their lives, that they don’t want to go down that road.”

Members of the Class of 2014 receiving “I Am UNITE” Scholarships are:

• Timothy D. Baker, Busy, Buckhorn High School (Perry County)
• Maulyia G. Baker, Jackson, Owsley County High School
• Sydni N. Bogar, Canada, Belfry High School (Pike County)
• Haleigh B. Bowling, Jenkins, Shelby Valley High School (Pike County)
• Kaitlynn E. Clark, Essie, Leslie County High School
• Corey B. Crisologo, Rockholds, Whitley County High School
• Darrian R. Davidson, Jackson, Jackson Independent (Breathitt County)
• Matthew J. Douglas, Corbin, Whitley County High School
• Rebecca L. Dunmore, Somerset, Somerset Christian School (Pulaski County)
• Nicholas T. Early, Cumberland, Harlan County High School
• James T. Faulkner, Williamsburg, Whitley County High School
• Brianna A. Feltner, Essie, Leslie County High School
• Caroline T. Herald, Jackson, Jackson Independent (Breathitt County)
• Morgan L. Jarrell, Dorton, Shelby Valley High School (Pike County)
• Emily N. Jenkins, Elkfork, Morgan County High School
• Alisha M. Kersey, Corbin, Corbin High School
• Matthew McCary, Tram, Betsy Layne High School (Floyd County)
• Kaitlyn R. Mitchell, Corbin, Lighthouse Academy (home school)
• Tanner M. Sammons, Pikeville, Pike County Central
• Harry R. Steele, West Liberty, Morgan County High School
• McKinzii S. Todd, Crab Orchard, Rockcastle County High School
• Brooklyn M. Tolson, Campton, Wolfe County High School
• Halley C. Wilson, West Liberty, Morgan County High School

In addition to scholarship awards, the Operation UNITE Foundation will provide high school seniors who meet Volunteer Service and GPA requirements, a letter of recommendation to the college of their choice and a commemorative certificate inducting them as a “UNITE Ambassador.”

“Prescription drug abuse continues to devastate communities across southern and eastern Kentucky – and our nation,” Smoot said. “UNITE believes we must do everything possible to promote prevention, educate about the dangers, and help families overcome the struggles that are associated with an addiction.”

This year there were 8,639 student members of 105 UNITE Clubs in 26 counties.