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Growing A Scholar

Elizabeth Scoville of Laurel County celebrates her 17th birthday this month. This coming spring she’ll graduate from North Laurel High School with a grade point average of about 4.38, ranking first in a class of 272. Since kindergarten, Elizabeth has made nothing but A’s.

Her mother, Lawana, is a science teacher at North Laurel. Elizabeth’s father, John, is a retired social studies teacher. Encouragement is a given. Studying is a discipline. Science is a passion.

Elizabeth Scoville is a name to remember in a new year of a new century. She’s not addicted to entertainment programs on television. Says she doesn’t have time to “hang out” on Friday nights. “I don’t have time for boys,” she smiles across the counter in the kitchen of her family’s home near East Bernstadt. “One day, I’ll find the right boy and if he cares enough he’ll let me do what I want to do.”

What Elizabeth wants to do is nanotechnology, “the science and technology of building electronic circuits and devices from single atoms and molecules.” (A nanosecond is one billionth of a second.)

Stay tuned!

Here we have a normal, young Appalachian woman with a purpose and a vision. Yes, Daisy Mae, Mammy Yokum, and all you other “real” Beverly Hillbillies, highly intelligent things are happening more and more in eastern Kentucky. It’s time the rest of the world took notice.

Elizabeth Scoville wants to be a doctor, but she plans to move beyond the basics of childbirth, flu shots, and pacemakers. She wants to devise and develop miniature medical strategies for introduction into the molecular structure of the human body, “medically tiny machines in the bloodstream giving medicine to various parts of the body,” she says with her soft and confident tone of voice.

Elizabeth was 5 years old when she decided she wanted to be a doctor. With a toy doctor’s kit she performed surgery on stuffed animals. In the eighth grade, her brother John helped her to assemble her first computer. He’s now a graduate student at Stanford and works part time at NASA.

Today, Elizabeth has developed the Computers for Kids Network (she’ll tell you all about it if you e-mail her at The way it works, if a company or individual has aging but still working computers, Elizabeth takes them in, checks them out, and makes them available to students who can’t afford a computer at home. This short-circuits landfills and the costs of dumping non-degradable lead components. Near the end of 2002, Elizabeth had processed 133 computers: “Bringing schools and companies together…to give kids a chance to break the stereotypes…I feel so blessed to give a computer to a child who may not get one for Christmas.”

“Computers at home are really necessary for students?”

Elizabeth smiles and nods, “Yes.”

She’s president of her local Beta Club, has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, is a participant in the state’s Student Technology Leadership Program, member of the Future Problem Solving team, and student in the Governor’s Scholars Program.

Elizabeth isn’t sure which college she’ll attend, but she’s leaning toward the University of Kentucky, where she wants to research genetics in the agricultural bio-technology department. She says she’d love to be a Rhodes Scholar.

At home in Laurel County she studies from two to three hours–“It’s been forever since I watched television”–and she has some friendly tips for students. “Never give up…train yourself for discipline…you really can do anything…but not everyone is a rocket scientist…the most important thing is to learn what you love because that’s where you’ll go in life…there’ll always be another opportunity to ‘hang out,’ you can’t re-do school.”

Elizabeth is named for her great-great-aunt, Elizabeth Jane Scoville, who taught school for more than 50 years. Riding a big red mare, great-great-aunt Elizabeth Jane and two other women from Louisville founded one of the first schools in Owsley County. That was near the beginning of the 20th century. Some miracles have happened since then. Watch for more.

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