When AP Environmental Science teacher Deni Sobek and Tim Myrick pulled Kristina Cunningham out of class earlier this month, the Oak Ridge High School senior was worried.
“I was nervous. I thought I had done something wrong,” said Kristina, who laughs about the incident now. Kristina wasn’t in trouble; in fact, she was surprised to find that Myrick had chosen to award her with a $1,000 college scholarship.
Tim Myrick, a guest lecturer and advisor to the advanced placement class, has a keen interest in making sure that the students and faculty of the ORHS science department are well-equipped and in rewarding high-caliber students such as Kristina.
In 2012, Myrick and his wife Teresa pledged $25,000 to the Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation’s “Making the Critical Difference” campaign for grants and scholarships. Their pledge provides for an annual scholarship to a top AP Environmental Science student, as well as grant funds to be awarded to ORHS Science Department applicants. Kristina is the sixth recipient of the Myricks’ AP Environmental Science scholarship, with previous scholarships presented through ADFAC.
“I selected Kristina because from the very first month in the AP Environmental Science class, I could tell she was very committed to environmental causes, was a dedicated student, and was very personable,” Tim Myrick said. He said he could see that she would be an excellent college student and professional engineer and a responsible advocate for environmental issues throughout her life.
Myrick has a master’s degree in environmental engineering and spent most of his career in environmental cleanup and nuclear waste management. Before he retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory as director of facility strategic planning, Myrick served as a loaned executive to the school system, helping oversee the design and reconstruction of the high school. He continued in that role after he retired in 2004. Then, Myrick was asked if he would be interested in helping once a week with AP Environmental Science classes.
Myrick has actively participated in the AP Environmental Science course ever since, often giving lectures, participating in field studies, or discussing ongoing environmental management projects. Kristina’s interest in pursuing studies in environmental sciences is due in part to Myrick’s lectures.
“I look forward to Tuesdays when he comes to our class. I was really interested to learn about the mercury contaminants coming from the Y-12 complex and the cleanup work in Oak Ridge,” she said.
“Students love him,” her teacher, Deni Sobek, added. “He provides real-world insight from his experience, conducts a couple of lectures each year, and helps each week with labs and activities.”
Kristina grew up in Oak Ridge, attending Willow Brook Elementary and splitting her middle school experience between Jefferson and Robertsville Middle Schools. Now a senior at ORHS, she has been accepted to Tennessee Tech University, where she plans to study environmental engineering.
“I have a strong passion to help the earth. We need to develop new technology to help bring change. We’re all responsible for what’s going on, but I want to help bring change,” Kristina commented when asked why she is focused on environmental sciences. She has received scholarships from FAFSA, TN HOPE, and the First Baptist Church of Oak Ridge, where she is an active member.
Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation invests in the Oak Ridge Public Schools beyond what public tax dollars can provide to ensure the highest quality of education for Oak Ridge students. The Foundation raises funds through grants and private donations such as those made by Tim and Teresa Myrick. The Foundation then invests in enhanced educational programming, innovative technology, and state of the art facilities for teachers and students. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.orpsef.org or contact Jenna Whitney at [email protected].