TYLER – Grace Knight, a senior at Bishop T.K. Gorman Catholic High School in Tyler, has been recognized as an outstanding leader by the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation and awarded a $20,000 scholarship.
Knight, a daughter of Scott and Lori Knight of Tyler, is the first student from Bishop Gorman to receive the award, and the only one in East Texas. She was one of 150 students selected for the honor out of more than 80,000 applicants.
Knight has attended Bishop Gorman since sixth grade. In addition to maintaining a 4.01 cumulative GPA over her high school career, she is an accomplished violinist with the East Texas Youth Orchestra and the Advanced Orchestra at Suzuki Institute of Dallas, a seasoned cross-country runner, and a distinguished recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award.
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at one year old, Knight has courageously and untiringly worked to expand research and resources for children with the debilitating lung disease. She has given over 500 hours of volunteer community service to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, working to organize almost a third of her school in the annual Great Strides Walk for CF, speaking at various community functions on behalf of the organization, and even spearheading a book to help connect youth with cystic fibrosis to each other. Grace has helped to raise almost $1.5 million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Her efforts with cystic fibrosis were an important consideration in her application.
At the annual Great Strides Walk, the Bishop Gorman students wearing their “Saving Grace” t-shirts regularly comprise the largest team present. Fundraising projects to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation have become regular events at Bishop Gorman.
Among her accomplishments is putting together The Tangles of Life, a book of poetry written by Knight, fellow Gorman students and other persons with CF. Those who suffer from the disease are urged to avoid contact with one another to prevent the spread of infection to compromised respiratory systems. That, said Knight, can be isolating, and robs CF patients of the chance to find support with and build community among each other.
The book was a way to change that. Soliciting contributions via email became an outreach in itself, and allowed Knight and other CF patients to contact each other safely.
The Tangles of Life was a Girl Scout project. Knight said she is considering giving the rights to the book to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for its use in fundraising.
“We are honored that a Gorman student was the only East Texas recipient of this extraordinary scholarship,” said Jim Franz, Bishop Gorman principal. “Grace Knight is emblematic of the quality of students at Gorman.”
“Grace is a strong leader for cystic fibrosis, she’s a strong student leader, she’s been a strong leader for this community,” Franz said. “She’s helped the school to rally around an issue, she’s helped to inform students about cystic fibrosis. Our students understand it because of her leadership. She’s someone who can pull a group together in a common effort, and that’s leadership in its ultimate form.
“But Grace is much broader than that,” he said. “She’s very faith-filled, she’s very academically conscientious, she’s a student athlete and an accomplished musician. She embodies what this school is about, and what Catholic education is about.”
Knight’s leadership transcends the halls of Bishop Gorman, as students who graduate from the school continue to take part in events benefitting cystic fibrosis, returning to Tyler to take part in Great Strides or contributing to their current communities.
And that, said Franz, is both a tribute to Knight’s leadership and one of the hallmarks of Catholic education.
“Our students impact the world,” he said. “They leave these halls and they take the charisms, the components, of Gorman, and they spread that through the world. And that’s what Catholic education is all about. Our students take the lessons of the classrooms, of the hallways and the sports fields, and they implement those in different ways and in different parts of the world. Even though they’ve gone away, they still rally around one of their own, they still come back to support Grace.”
“I think it’s pretty cool that people here have rallied around this,” Knight said. “Cystic fibrosis is a horrible disease, but we’re finding good things in it. We’re educating and unifying people, and that’s a really great thing.”
Having had the Bishop Gorman community embrace her over the years “has been absolutely vital,” she said. “That’s my main core, the Gorman community. I have other friends and neighbors, but the Gorman community has been my biggest support. They’re my team. Having everyone here rally around me and pitch in and just be there for me has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”
Knight has not yet decided where she will attend college, but plans to study English and eventually law, with an eye toward continuing her advocacy work.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is one of the largest corporate-sponsored, achievement-based scholarship programs of its kind in the United States. It was created in 1986 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of CocaCola. Including the 2016 class of Coca-Cola Scholars, the Foundation has awarded over 5,700 Coca-Cola Scholars with a total of $59.4 million in scholarships.
“Grace Knight is part of a diverse group of extraordinary high school seniors who have shown a steadfast commitment to educational excellence, leadership and service to the school and community,” said Claude Nielsen, Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and President and Chief Executive Officer of Coca-Cola Bottling Company United in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Our family is grateful that Grace has received recognition from such an outstanding organization,” said Lori Knight. “As she begins her college career, I know she will make a major impact as a result of the relationships she develops with the other members of the Coca-Cola Scholar’s class.”
For a full list of 2016 Coca-Cola Scholars and their high schools, please visit the Coca Cola Scholars website.