HARRODSBURG — Mercer County Senior High School has produced its second and third Brown Fellows Program scholars in two years with Allison “Alli” Grant and Caleb Sheehan.
“Last year we were so proud when Cole Keller was honored as a Brown scholar, but this year we really hit the jackpot with Alli and Caleb,” said Principal Terry Yates, who had one last chance to meet with two of his favorite students Thursday afternoon before they officially become high school graduates at 8 tonight.
“Alli and Caleb are far too modest to brag about themselves and this achievement, so please allow me the honor to do a little bragging on their part,” said the proud principal.
Grant and Sheehan each will receive a full four-year academic scholarship along with paid room and board at the University of Louisville. But there’s another perk.
“Every summer we get a $5,000 travel allowance to study abroad,” said Grant. She and Sheehan will visit Italy in July for two weeks.
“I’ve been lucky enough to see a great many places throughout the United States, but being able to travel the world is something I’ve always dreamed about,” said Grant.
Sheehan said a visit to Washington, D.C., in seventh grade changed his perspective. “From that moment on, whenever I saw a movie, a documentary or read a book that talked about one of our national landmarks in D.C., I was able to relate to them on a very personal level. I can only imagine how this trip to Italy will help me see the world.”
Grant believes the highlight of her trip to Italy will be a visit to Rome where she will see Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica.
“As a Catholic, this will be a very special moment for me,” Grant said. “I can’t wait to share that experience with my friends at my St. Andrews here in Harrodsburg where I grew up going to church.”
Sheehan, also a member of St. Andrews, looks forward to Vatican City, too, but also is anticipating one of Italy’s other noteworthy attractions — the food.
“My friend Taylor Griggs told me that Italy’s reputation for fine cuisine is well deserved,” Sheehan said. “And I plan on taking in as many restaurants as I can.”
Grant also looks forward to Italian food.
“We’re going to see six different cities in two weeks, including Rome, Florence and Venice, so it will be interesting to experience those wonderful cities and take in Italy’s famous cooking,” she said.
The two scholars realize they won’t be the only ones meeting people of a different culture since, for many Italians, they will be the first Kentuckians some will be encountering.
“When I’ve traveled around this country, I’d have to tell people that I’ve never actually been to the Kentucky Derby and we don’t eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken every day,” joked Grant.
“And I might find myself in the position of explaining to some people that we actually do wear shoes and we don’t have to walk a mile down the road to fetch a bucket of water from the well,” said Sheehan.
However, both student feel well prepared to play the role of ambassador, thanks in large part to their school system, teachers, and administrators such as Principal Yates.
“Alli and I are the second and third Brown Fellows Program students from this school in the last two years,” said Sheehan. “And that’s certainly not a coincidence. This school deserves credit for not just what they did for Alli and me, but its entire student body.”
“I can say with complete certainty that if not for these teachers at Mercer County Senior High and this county’s entire school system, I wouldn’t be in this blessed position,” said Grant. “I think Caleb’s correct when he suggests that the people associated with this school system don’t always get the credit they deserve.”
But it was Yates who reserved the biggest compliment of them all.
“Obviously Alli and Caleb are exceptionally intelligent young people, but what I’ll always remember about them is their character,” Yates said. “It’s one thing to be an excellent student, it’s another to be a person that’s admired by your classmates for being a good person. Alli and Caleb are a special mix that possess both intelligence and decency, which is, I believe, the reason they will both make us all proud for years to come.”