Meet The Messenger’s Class of 2021 Scholarship Recipients


The Messenger’s Class of 2021 Scholarship recipients Jessi Riley (left) from Southside High School and Brooke Batson (right) from Westbrook Christian School accept their scholarships at The Messenger’s office.

The two first recipients of The Messenger’s Class of 2021 Scholarship, funded from the Class of 2021 magazine, were awarded with contributions to their future in July. The seniors, Southside High School’s Jessi Riley and Westbrook Christian School’s Brooke Batson, shared their thoughts on their high school experience and their plans for the coming days ahead.

Where were you born and raised?

Jessi: I was born in Alabaster but moved to Southside when I was about 2 years old.  I’ve been here ever since!

Brooke: I was born and raised in Gadsden.

How old are you?

Jessi: I’m 18 years old.

Brooke: I’m 18 years old.

Tell us about your family and pets.

Jessi: I live with my mother and my step-father. We have two dogs and three cats.  I have a brother and a sister from my biological father, but never knew them growing up because they are much older than me.  As I’ve gotten older I have established a relationship with them and I am very happy with it!

Brooke: I have two older brothers, Josh and Caleb, and I am lucky to have some of the coolest parents in Tim and Sandra. I have five cats and one dog that I adore.

How would you describe yourself?

Jessi: I would say I’m stubborn, honest, loyal and creative.

Brooke: I would describe myself as a hard worker, exuberant, enthusiastic about what lies ahead and appreciative.

Were you involved with any extracurricular activities during high school – service organizations, clubs, sports, band, etc.?

Jessi: I was a member of The “PRIDE” of Southside for five years, for the concert band I was lucky to be a part of the symphonic band and then the wind ensemble at Southside (obviously before COVID hit and took a damper on school).  I was also a member of the National Honor Society and a senior class notable.

Brooke: I was in Key Club, a Warrior Rep., and I played soccer.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Jessi: I love looking at/planning weddings (even though I’ve never done it for anyone before, I really like the creativity that can come with it), listening to music, and watching Netflix or Hulu.

Brooke: I like to hang out with friends and family!

Describe your favorite memory from high school. 

Jessi: The feeling I got after I walked across the stage during graduation was honestly the most sensational thing ever.  It was like a breath of fresh air and I will never forget it.

Brooke: Homecoming was always one of my favorite times – especially my junior year when we decided our theme to be “Beans!”

Describe your favorite memory from senior year. 

Jessi: Another favorite moment would be performing our senior run through for The “PRIDE”.  The amount of confidence I had in myself, performing with only seniors, and being one of the only brass members was exhilarating.

Brooke: I would have to say when the girls soccer team went to the first round of playoffs. I remember how nervous we were, and we won! Crowding the field afterwards was all just so surreal.

Describe your high school experience in three words. 

Jessi: Challenging, awesome, fun.

Brooke: Exciting, challenging, growth. 

What did you learn throughout your years in high school that you will take with you in life?

Jessi: Don’t always do what is popular, do what is right – it’ll get you way farther in life and it’ll bring you more satisfaction in the end.

Brooke: If you want to go fast in life, go alone. But if you want to go far in life, go together.

What teacher or staff member influenced or inspired you the most? Why?

Jessi: Mrs. Rachael Couch influenced me the most.  She was my home room teacher and my psychology/sociology teacher.  The way she carries herself and how she speaks is inspiring, not to mention she’s an amazing teacher, and I always loved going into her classroom.

Brooke: I can’t choose just one, but just about all the faculty at Westbrook influenced me.

What are your plans after high school?

Jessi: I plan to attend Jacksonville State University and major in business.

Brooke: I plan on attending Jefferson State Community College in the fall and doing the radiology tech. program or the pharmacy tech. program. 

If you’re attending college after high school, what is one thing you’re looking forward to about this new phase in life?

Jessi: I’m looking forward to exploring what opportunities come to me and making new friends.

Brooke: I am excited to grow in a new community and meet new people.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Jessi: I see myself graduating college, hopefully landing a good job, potentially in another state.

Brooke: I see myself having a job in my degree, being content with what stage of life I am at, possibly in a new city.

What future goals do you hope to accomplish?

Jessi: My future goals are to set a good example for my future family and to be successful with everything I do.  I also want to be able to travel and see the world with my own eyes.

Brooke: I hope to succeed in my future job, continue growing and expanding my knowledge.

If you could send a message to your high school teachers and classmates, what would you say?

Jessi: Thank you for shaping me into the person I am today!

Brooke: I am thankful for the 14 years I spent there at Westbrook and wouldn’t change it for the world! Without the help of my teachers or classmates, I don’t know what I would do.

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