Lexington high schooler earns full scholarship

LEXINGTON, Tenn. — Karlee Willis got a life-changing surprise at school on Friday.

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“I’ve got to be honest. When Carla called me, I went into the office and started talking to one of the other guys at work and started crying. I’m sorry,” said Jeff Willis, Karlee’s dad.

“She’s worked really hard and just tries so hard,” Karlee’s mom, Carla Willis, said.

“She’s the smartest person that I know,” Karlee’s brother, Jake Willis, said.

Jeff, Carla and Jake Willis were joined by the rest of their family and friends in surprising graduating senior Karlee with life-changing news.

“I was kind of confused, and he said, ‘Karlee, someone needs to talk to you.’ I got a little scared for a second. I was like, ‘Did I do something?’ I didn’t think I did anything,” Karlee said.

She did do something. She was one of 22 people to compete in Bethel University’s Hendrix Scholarship.

“It wasn’t just come up there and go through the motions. She was tested. It was Friday and part of Saturday, a real intense competition,” Bethel University president Dr. Walter Butler said.

“The winner of that scholarship in that competition gets free tuition, free room and free board. It is a full scholarship to Bethel University for the student that wins,” Butler said.

The scholarship is worth about $105,000 over the course of four years.

“I wish you would join me in congratulating Karlee this morning,” Butler said, followed by applause.

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“I was kind of internally screaming. I wanted to cry, but I also didn’t want this to go anywhere,” Karlee said while pointing to her face.

Karlee plans to major in biochemistry and have a career in pathology.

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