Two Oklahoma high school seniors have been named Chancellor Hans Brisch Scholars for outstanding leadership, civic involvement and academic talent.
JaiCee June Lester, Checotah High School, and Kaden Jake Rhodes, Locust Grove High School, will each receive a $2,000 award through the Chancellor Hans Brisch Scholarship program.
The Chancellor’s Scholars Program was created in 1990 with private funds. The program was renamed in 2006 to honor Brisch, who served as chancellor of the Oklahoma state system of higher education for 15 years. Brisch retired in 2003 and passed away in February 2006.
Lester and Rhodes were selected from nominations made by high school principals statewide.
“These exceptional students excel academically and prioritize service to others,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “They join an elite group of young Oklahoma leaders who personify distinction in academic achievement and strengthening communities. We wish them continued success as they pursue a college degree.”
Lester actively participates in numerous community service initiatives to make a positive difference in the lives of others. She created the Share the Warmth program to collect no-slip socks and blankets for the local nursing home. She has volunteered with the Oklahoma Blood Institute, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, Checotah Nursing Center, WISH (Women in Safe Homes), and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s statewide clean-up day. She also participated in fundraising efforts through the National Honor Society and Student Council.
Lester is a member of many organizations, including Fostering Hope’s Teen Board, the 2022 class of Youth Leadership Oklahoma, Youth Tour Oklahoma, Business Professionals of America, Gifted and Talented, National Honor Society, and Oklahoma Student Indian Honor Society. She also attended both the University of Oklahoma Campus Activities Council’s High School Leadership Conference and Oklahoma State University’s TLX (The Leadership Experience).
Lester received her academic letter jacket and is a Philanthropic Educational Organization’s Star Student. She ranked first in her class and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Through concurrent enrollment at Connors State College, she earned an associate degree before starting college. She plans to attend Northeastern State University in the fall.
Rhodes has engaged in extensive service to both his school and community. He participated in the Ronald McDonald Pick Up the Tab Project by collecting and delivering donated pop tabs to benefit the local Ronald McDonald House in Tulsa, helped pack backpacks full of food to be delivered to elementary children, and prepared meals as part of the Stamp Out Starvation program through the Northeast District Leadership Conference.
Rhodes also shares his passion for STEM and computer programming. He created and organized a STEM room challenge for an end-of-the-year Fun Day event at Locust Grove Upper Elementary and was selected to receive grants to attend national 4-H conferences in Washington, D.C., and Lehi, Utah. He also coordinated and managed several STEM booths and camps, represented Oklahoma at the National Maker Summit in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and helped coordinate a Google national corporate event, Grow with Google, where he taught coding skills to students. Additionally, he volunteered to help set up more than 700 Chromebooks and iPads for districtwide student use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rhodes’ efforts to advocate for digital literacy and computer science education in his school and community exemplify his excellent leadership skills. He was selected as an OSU 4-H STEM Innovator and serves as a member of the Mayes County H.O.P.E. Coalition, Locust Grove Arts Alliance, 4-H Youth Organization, Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial Youth Service, and Sunshine Committee, which provides gifts and activities for nursing home residents. He also serves on Student Council and was a delegate for Oklahoma 4-H Day at the Capitol and the National 4-H Conference Rural Broadband event. He held many school leadership positions, including 4-H vice president, Mayes County 4-H president, and senior class president.
Rhodes graduated with a 4.0 GPA and completed several honors courses and 15 college credit hours through concurrent enrollment at Rogers State University. He is a nominee for U.S. Presidential Scholar, a member of the National Honor Society, and class valedictorian. He plans to attend Oklahoma State University in the fall.
Brisch Scholars are academically talented high school seniors with outstanding leadership ability who demonstrate a commitment to improving the learning environment of the school or positively impacting the community.In the 33 years since its inception, the Chancellor’s Scholars program has provided scholarships for more than 100 deserving students. Private gifts, including professional honoraria from the current and past chancellors, support the program, which honors not only Brisch but the office of the chancellor and all individuals who serve Oklahoma in that position.