Elks Lodge 197 Continues Tradition of Scholarship Awards

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Elks Scholarship Winners (L-R): Abigail Anderson, Kyleen Draper, Charlie Urgo, Isaac Harmon, Jonah Mroz-Roakes and Erin Kirtley; not pictured Grace Angel. (Linda Turner photos).
Over four decades and counting.
Like the Energizer bunny, the local Elks Lodge 197 Scholarship Night just keeps on going and going. And, impressively giving out scholarships to deserving high school seniors along the way.
Thursday night, the 43rd annual Elks Valedictorian Scholarship Night rolled out the red carpet as seven area high school seniors received $1,000 scholarships to continue their education at the college level.
Although COVID-19 restrictions prevented the gathering of all valedictorians and their families from 17 regional high schools, the Elks committee will acknowledge those achievers directly through each school’s administration. However, the scholarship winners were on hand for a special outdoor ceremony led by Elk officials, Elks Club 197 scholarship chairman Dave Ross, along with guest speaker and former Roanoke College basketball coach Ed Green who gave an inspiring message for the seniors and their families.
Former speakers have included mayors, congressmen, athletic stars, coaches and community leaders.
The seventeen regional high schools include Cave Spring, Craig County, Faith Christian, Franklin County, Glenvar, Hidden Valley, James River, Lord Botetourt, North Cross, Northside, Patrick Henry, Roanoke Catholic, Roanoke Valley Christian School, Salem, Staunton River, William Byrd and William Fleming.
Northside’s Kyleen Draper receives her scholarship from Dave Ross, Elks Youth Activities Committee member.

“This night and scholarship awards ceremony is very satisfying,” Ross, who has been associated with picking the winners for 30 years, noted prior to Thursday’s presentation. “A large number of scholarships center solely around athletics, but the Elks scholarship winners you see here tonight have our highest honor because of what these young women and men have also achieved academically in the classroom, but also because they were involved in various aspects of the community. The winners over the years have gone on to very successful professional careers and being noted for their high character and integrity in the community.”

“For the second straight year we couldn’t get the large number of exceptional valedictorians together because of COVID protocol, but we figured out a way to get the scholarship winners here,” Ross continued. “We have a wide variety of winners again this year. If we have an Elks member, whether a mom, dad or grandparents, who have a graduating senior in their family, they are given first consideration. When we began this 43 years ago winners were limited to Roanoke City and Roanoke County. Today, it has expanded to the list of 17 public and private schools throughout the region. I’d also like to thank Sammy Oakey and Oakey’s Funeral Service and Crematory for their support of this great event tonight.”
This year’s winners include Abigail Anderson (Franklin County HS), Grace Angel (Hidden Valley), Kyleen Draper (Northside), Isaac Harmon (Patrick Henry), Erin Kirtley (William Byrd), Jonah Mroz-Roakes (Patrick Henry) and Charlie Urgo (Cave Spring).
Additionally, Elks State Scholarship winners from the 17-school region included Olivia Johnson (William Fleming), along with Emily Snow and Nathan Snow (Salem).

Anderson was an honor student at Franklin County and is going to JMU in the fall where she plans to major in media arts design.. She was a director in the television production class for high school football and basketball games produced as the Student Playback Game of the Week shown on WWCW-TV. Abby is a Skills USA State President and is the student representative on the Franklin County School Board.

“This is amazing, beyond amazing, “Anderson said of her award. “I am very grateful to the Elks for this scholarship and would like to thank Ken Kilinski, my instructor at Franklin County, for the opportunity he gave me with the Playback Game staff.”

Angel was an Honor Student at Hidden Valley where she was a cheerleader and member of the competitive cheer team for 4 years. Grace was an outstanding competitor for the Roanoke Academy of Gymnastics. Grace will attend Radford University Honors College with designs on being a veterinarian.

Draper has been a captain of both the Northside softball and volleyball teams, earning All-District and All-Region in both sports. Kyleen is a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club and Spanish Club. She serves as an umpire for North Roanoke Recreation and is active in her church youth group. Kyleen plans to attend Roanoke College where she will play volleyball and pursue a major in business.

“I was very surprised,” Draper noted Thursday evening. “I’m very grateful. It means a lot and an honor to be represented in the community in this manner.”

Harmon is an honor student at Patrick Henry where he is a member of the National Art Honor Society, the Grandin Theater Film Lab and Patrick Henry Chamber Choir where he was named All-District. Isaac is going to VCU with plans on majoring in communication arts.

Kirtley has been an honor student at William Byrd and has been on the drumline of the Terriers’ marching band. Her grandparents were involved in numerous Elks projects throughout the years.

Mroz-Roakes attended the Roanoke Valley Governors School and has been a member of the Elks Club swimming team. He plans to attend the University of Rhode Island with plans on majoring in ocean engineering.

Charlie Urgo, senior at Cave Spring, accepts one of seven scholarships awarded Thursday night by Elks Lodge No.197 during their 43rd annual scholarship night.

Urgo played baseball and basketball for Cave Spring where he was a member of the 2020 VHSL Class 3 Basketball State Championship and captain of the 2021 team. Charlie plans to attend Virginia Western while continuing his entrepreneurial endeavors in a recycling business he owns. His family keeping this a secret may have been an understatement for Urgo on Thursday.

“This is an honor and I was not expecting it,” Urgo admitted. “My family told me to hurry and get cleaned up after practice. We got in the car and I didn’t even know where we were going.”

– Bill Turner