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Three UT students were honored by the Knoxville News Sentinel for excellence in leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the 2019 20 Under 20 awards.

The group was featured in the November issue of magazine and honored at an awards reception on Thursday at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Image of Brianna Saylor

Brianna Saylor, 18, is a freshman studying wildlife and fishery science. Saylor earned the Gold Award as a Girl Scout and was a dedicated 4-H member, creating two lesson plans to educate students about conservation and changing ecosystems. Her project, “Wild Adaptations: Understanding Causes and Effects of Ecosystem Change,” was published last spring through UT Extension, aimed at teaching fourth and fifth graders about plant and animal adaptations, how the environment impacts these changes, and how humans can minimize their impact on the world’s ecosystems.

At UT, Saylor is involved with the Wildlife and Fisheries Society and is starting a UT chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society to promote birdwatching and protect birds in East Tennessee. Saylor said she’s always had a passion for animals. She attributes her love for the environment to a high school course that inspired her “to protect all these really cool species that can be found living in our world.” In the future, Saylor hopes to work in ornithology and explore the Amazon rain forest.

Image of Roxanne Abernathy

Roxanne Abernathy, 19, is a sophomore studying public relations with a music business minor. Abernathy started a pop-rock band called the Pinklets with her two younger sisters. The group has been playing together for 10 years, inspired by a love of music passed down from their father. The Pinklets have played at local festivals including Rhythm N’ Blooms as well as the renowned Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Abernathy prides herself on being not only a skilled musician but also a savvy businesswoman. In April 2019, she organized a benefit concert and fundraiser called “Girls Rock for Girls Rock Camp,” raising nearly $1,000 for the Girls Rock Camp in Knoxville. The event featured female musicians, a silent auction, and start-ups owned by women. Abernathy stressed the importance of using her platform for female empowerment: “I want to bring attention to all of the awesome things that women can do.”

At UT, Abernathy is involved with an a cappella group, ReVOLution, as well as the Chamber Singers and the Women’s Chorale. As for the future, Abernathy is excited to see where the band goes, as her sisters will graduate from high school soon. She anticipates more opportunities on the horizon.

Image of Kaitlyn Daniels

Kaitlyn Daniels, 19, is a freshman studying engineering. Daniels was also a dedicated Girl Scout, earning the Gold Award with an extraordinary leadership record. When Seymour Junior High School was under construction, Daniels noticed a decline in birds and greenery around the area. She decided to create a garden space at the junior high, adding trees and native plants to attract pollinators. Daniels partnered with the special education department at Seymour High School for the installation of a wheelchair-accessible raised garden. Daniels remains invested in the Seymour community, continuing work on an outdoor classroom, maintaining a seed library, and leading a science club. She lives by the goal of “wanting to make the world a better place.”

At UT, Daniels writes for the Daily Beacon and is involved with the Society of Women Engineers, looking to blend her love for science with her passion for helping others. This summer she will intern with Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company. Daniels hopes to start her own business or become a science teacher in the future.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,