SODDY-DAISY, TN (WRCB) - It is a big day when a local student is presented with an unlimited scholarship to the college of his or her choice, with no strings attached.  It is an amazing day when two students from the same school earn that honor.  That day has arrived at Soddy-Daisy High.

A couple of longtime friends, Amanda Stewart and Zac Egger have been selected by the Annenberg Public Policy Center to receive the Leonore Annenberg Scholarship.  The Soddy-Daisy juniors may select the college of their choice, with all expenses covered: everything from preliminary visits to tuition, meals, living quarters, books and technology.  Both students are already thinking big, with trips planned to Harvard, Columbia, the University of the South and more.

"This is unprecedented," said John Maynard, Soddy-Daisy principal.  "You hear of a student from here, or a student from there, they only give ten of these a year, nationwide.  But two from one school?  That's never happened."

Egger, a tall, polite teen who is called "Egger" by his friends, is humbled by the award.  "My mom couldn't believe it.  She works in a cafeteria.  There's no way we could afford most of the schools I'm able to look at now."  He's been doing yard work for friends and neighbors to have a little spending money in high school.  "I won't stop doing that," he said.  "It's good for me and it's good for them."

Stewart, a soccer player with a quick sense of humor and ready smile, is appreciative of the gift.  She said, "It really says a lot about the teachers and classes at Soddy-Daisy, and the opportunities they've given us.  Zac and I have known each other and had classes together for years.  We knew that we were both up for this, and each of us would have been sad if one had gotten it and the other didn't  We're thrilled for each other."

Teachers say the pair share a strong work ethic, and great kindness.  Other students lean on them for tutoring outside class, and help in problem-solving during class.  "They don't mind it when students come to them with a question," counselor Nancy Zuber said.  "They're just glad to be able to help.  They've been pushed by their teachers to challenge themselves, and they have responded."

Both have just returned from a trip to New York City, venturing beyond the South for the first time into the world of airplanes, taxicabs, and a faster pace of life.  Egger said most of the colleges he's considering are in the North.  "It'll be a different world," he said.  "But I'm ready for anything."  Stewart agreed.  "I can't wait to see what else is out there," she said.  "Soddy-Daisy is a great place to live, and I'm so thankful for this scholarship.  I couldn't have done it without the great teachers here."

Public Education Foundation officials will join local school leaders in making the formal presentation to Egger and Stewart Thursday afternoon.  The scholarship program is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

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