White House Native Chosen as 2018 Max McElhaney Memorial Scholarship Winner

The Rocky McElhaney Law Firm is proud to announce Dartmouth-bound, White House, Tennessee student, Savannah Eller as the 2018 recipient of the Max McElhaney Memorial Educational Scholarship.  Savannah’s outstanding academic accomplishments, well-written and imaginative approach to the essay, philanthropic work and zealous drive to live a purposeful life brought her application to the top of this year’s pile!

“Savannah is a dream of a candidate.  It’s almost like the scholarship was made for her to win!  She is exactly the type of amazing human being we are searching for to support with this scholarship.  It’s more than being a straight A student.  It’s about heart.  The life Savannah is striving to live and her own “Gold Standard of Love” drew many parallels to my Uncle Max’s illustrious life story.  Her insatiable appetite for learning and effecting positive change in the world makes her a wonderful role model for others and honors Max’s incredible memory.”

Each year before choosing a winner, Rocky McElhaney holds video interviews with a handful of finalists to get to know the candidates before making his final decision.  To learn more about Savannah, and more things about Rocky you may have not known, click the link below for the video interview:

2018 Max McElhaney Memorial Educational Scholarship Winner- Savannah Eller Video Interview with Rocky McElhaney

“She speaks four languages, can fly a plane, has traveled the world, and writes for the local paper. She is an artist, a science fair winner, and a former page for the Tennessee Senate and Tennessee House of Representatives. She’s also a second-degree black belt, so you know that when times get tough, Savannah can handle whatever life throws at her.” writes TNIRC.

As if that wasn’t enough, Savannah’s application boasted substantive, high-quality recommendations that painted a picture of her spirit and devotion to her studies and her future.  One recommendation from White House Public Library Director, Elizabeth Kozlowski, tells the story of her ongoing efforts to help her fellow community members:

One day Eller marched into the library (where she spent many of her days being tutored in Russian), walked right up to the Director and told Kozlowski she had identified a need among young immigrants in the community and sought to meet that need by becoming a certified English as a Second Language Instructor.

With Savannah being only 17, and still in high school, the journey to become ESL certified while still balancing her daily curriculum and extracurriculars was an arduous one.  This great task involved intensive fundraising, study, development of lesson plans, selection of textbooks for students, and the creation of a marketing plan with a unique approach to target the demographic she intended to reach.

As if it was meant to be, Savannah’s hard work paid off and with every step she took toward her goal she experienced great success.  She went on to become the first high schooler ever to complete the ESL certification since the institution where she attended has been in operation.   The classes, which she now teaches at the library, help those new to our country learn English, adjust to a new culture, and succeed at school or in their chosen profession.

We could go on and on about her remarkable accomplishments but we’d rather you experience a bit of her literary genius for yourself.  For your reading pleasure, we present to you the crowning jewel of scholarship application components- the “Gold Standard of Love” essay.  In this essay, scholarship applicants are challenged to write about a special kind of all-encompassing, unconditional love they’ve witnessed in their lives- the ultimate “gold standard” if you will.  It makes no matter if that’s love they’ve found in a parent, a sibling, a significant other, a friend or even a stranger, it’s up to the scholarship candidate to decide what it means in within the borders of their life.  …We think Savannah did a pretty good job with it:  

My Gold Standard of Love

written by Savannah Eller

         She taught me how to fold a napkin at dinner and how far a C-17 cargo plane can fly without refueling. She introduced me to the beauty of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and the polished funk of Earth, Wind, and Fire. She’s the reason I know how to escape a judo arm lock and save a stalling aircraft. She taught me how to say “joie de vivre,” and how to apply the phase every day. She’s my mom Paula, and she happens to be the cleverest person I know.

         I’ve never had any doubt that my mom led an interesting life before I was born. She has always been happy to tell me about her adventures as a young woman, how she left the family farm to pursue her love of science and travel. She loves to tell stories about her Cajun connections in New Orleans, or how she barely escaped from Thailand on the eve of a violent coup. Her enthusiasm is infectious when she talks about engineering principles, aviation, and her favorite places in the world.

          She is just as eager, however, to tell the story of moving back to Tennessee, giving up her career, and raising a family. Time and again she has maintained that leaving her old life behind causes her no regret. Instead, as she tells it, she embarked on a new life goal: taking care of her family and raising my siblings and me the best way she could.

        As a young woman with my own ambition and wanderlust, I find it difficult to understand my mom’s decision twenty years ago. How could she give up what she loved, move back home, and devote herself to raising children and caring for her parents? All while the world was at her fingertips. It’s a kind of love I can’t yet imagine, even though I know that much of who I am is a product of it.

       My mom has taught me so many wonderful things, but some of her most important lessons are just dawning on me. She has taught me the value of family and responsibility. How to be magnanimous. How to give of yourself without ever running out. Her example is what I hope to live up to in life. It’s my gold standard of love.

Savannah is the first candidate chosen for this honor who resides in the firm’s home state of Tennessee.  The scholarship is open to students from coast to coast and has been previously awarded to amazing individuals living and attending schools across the Southeastern United States.

The Rocky McElhaney Law Firm would like to congratulate Ms. Eller on her selection and her parents for helping to sculpt such an amazing, young mind.  We look forward to watching her take full advantage of her gifts and make her own way in the world!

About the Max McElhaney Memorial Educational Scholarship

The Max McElhaney Memorial Educational Scholarship was founded in honor of Max McElhaney, the late uncle of firm founder Rocky McElhaney. The Firm awards $2500 every year to a full-time student enrolled at an accredited college or university, majoring in English or History. Applicants must submit proof of enrollment, a personal statement, a statement of financial need, an essay on the student’s “Gold Standard of Love,” and at least one recommendation.  The Rocky McElhaney Law Firm is now accepting applications through its scholarship page, now through June 15, 2019.


2018 Max McElhaney Memorial Educational Scholarship Winner- Savannah Eller, Piloting a Plane