Henderson County’s Mackenzie Tittle and Abigail Harris, who graduate from high school this Friday, are two of the top three winners of first-ever area Scottish Rite scholarships for western North Carolina.
They join Kelsey Fletcher of East Rutherford High. She and East Henderson soccer star Hayden “Mackenzie” Tittle of East Henderson each qualify for a $5,000 annual college scholarship renewable for up to four years, from the Scottish Rites (of Freemasonry) Asheville chapter.
Harris of Hendersonville High is awarded a $2,000 annual scholarship. As sole alternate, she would get a $5,000 scholarship if either of its recipients ceases to receive it. Harris and Fletcher are both accepted into UNC-Chapel Hill. Tittle has a full academic scholarship to Berry College in Georgia, where he will play soccer.
Tomorrow, Friday, June 7 is historically D-Day Plus One. It also marks the last day of school with graduation that evening for all four high schools in Henderson County, as well as Balfour Education Center students.
The three scholarship winners were chosen via a point system from 36 applicants from the state’s 16 westernmost counties, on May 14 by a trio on Asheville Scottish Rites’ Education Committee, panel Chairman Frank Burrell said. Burrell, a mason, was Jackson County school superintendent in 1997-2001.
“Scottish Rites built up a sizable fund, from fundraisers,” Burrell said. He urged superintendents to seek two applicants per high school. They were among top in unweighted grade-point average, and active in extra-curricular groups, Burrell said.
“They were all strong candidates, from the top of the heaps,” he said. “But these three stood out.” He said the trio showed collegiate aptitude, drive and achievement, and character including humility. He said Tittle did not even bring up his soccer prowess. All three were very composed and “articulate,” in live interviews.
Hayden “Mackenzie” Tittle has a perfect 4.0 East career GPA, that soars to 4.87 when bolstered by honors and advanced placement (A.P.) courses. The valedictorian is the son of Gary and Peggy Tittle. His younger brother Noah, a rising senior, was his Eagle soccer teammate. Their sisters are Dakota, a rising East sophomore who plays soccer and tennis, and Murphy Tittle who enters seventh grade this fall.
Mackenzie Tittle, as a “striker” forward, is East’s all-time scorer with 75 goals. He notched 22 last fall, as among seven four-year starters. Head coach Tim Roberts, describes the go-to finisher as a “one in a million” player and superb leader and team motivator.
Tittle said that before games and during half-times, he helped “refocus” teammates. He said to “keep composed.” Indeed, he said, “perseverance and focus” were his keys on the field and in the classroom.
Tittle, a fan of Duke sports, wants to coach. He plans to teach high school social studies, like his mentor Shelby Lewis. He said “she emphasized the importance of learning from the past, to progress to the future.” His favorite era is colonial America. Lewis taught him in East High civics-economics, honors U.S. history and A.P. history.
“Mackenzie has the making to be a great teacher,” Mrs. Lewis said, pointing to his disciplined preparation and mastery of subjects. Also, she said, “he’s a natural born leader. He accepts others’ opinions, and listens to their arguments. Yet he’s quick to challenge perspectives. He looks at history beyond its face level, to what’s behind the subject” such as from dissident “movers and shakers.”
Abigail Harris said she wants to be an attorney, likely specializing in criminal law. In student mock trials, she won a West Region award as best attorney for the opening statement. “I like to see how the law system works, what it’s like to be an attorney,” she said. She said she wants to help foster justice. Burrell noted she espoused “the helping side of lawyering.”
Harris is “conscientious. She does the right thing, and she’s cheerful about it,” HHS guidance counselor Annabelle Hurd said. “She is so bright, yet so unassuming and down to earth. She is not full of herself.”
Abie would be the first attorney from her family. She is the youngest of Melanie and Craig Harris’s three children. She ranks 13th in her HHS class of 162, heading into computation of final nine-week session grades, Hurd noted. Harris’ GPA is 4.617 weighted, 3.9167 unweighted with A’s in all but two classes in four years. She is an avid reader. As an honors student, she tutored other HHS students. She was in the Kiwanettes service club.
Like Tittle, Harris was also active in athletics. She ran in track, and HHS cross country for three seasons. Covering distances, it is “really relaxing to run,” she said. “It clears my mind.”