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Four Students Honored with Jack Diller Education Award

by Alexis Tahara / Nashville Predators

On Thursday, April 10, during the second period of the Predators vs. Coyotes game, the Nashville Predators Foundation presented four students $2500 Jack Diller Education Award scholarships. This year, more than 200 high school students, from 87 different high schools applied for the award.

Since 2006, the Nashville Predators Foundation has been honoring two male and two female students from Nashville or Middle Tennessee with this prestigious award. The candidates, who must be nominated by a teacher or coach, must be a college-bound senior currently attending a Nashville or Middle Tennessee area high school, display leadership in the classroom and on the athletic field, have a minimum GPA of 3.0 from their sophomore to senior year and demonstrate the value of education, good work ethic and community outreach.

Christian Harris, Columbia Academy, Columbia, Tenn.

Harris, who was recently named the Valedictorian of his graduating class at Columbia Academy, is a member of the National Honor Society and has participated in both challenging honors and Advanced Placement classes during his high school career.

A multi-sport athlete, Harris has participated on both the soccer and basketball teams at Columbia Academy, and is the starting guard on this year’s varsity basketball team that entered the district tournament as the number two seed.

Outside of the classroom and off the athletic field, Harris is very involved in serving those in his community. In addition to being involved with the Best Buddies organization and Special Olympics, this year Harris participated in Columbia Academy’s “Unified PE” class, a gym class where students from Columbia have a joint gym class with students at the King’s Daughter’s school, a school that offers programs to children with special needs.

Chase Lutz, Independence High School, Spring Hill, Tenn.

As a member of the National Honor Society, National Technical Honors Society and the Nation English Honors Society and taking AP courses throughout high school, Lutz has shown a dedication to academics that earned him direct admittance into the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to his in-class academic preparations, Lutz has interned in the communications department at Williamson County Schools this year, learning how to submit work in a professional environment and covering stories and events for their newsletter and cable channel.

Lutz, who has been a Predators hockey fan since he was three years old, has captained his high school hockey team for the past two years. This year, his teammates selected him captain of his travel team, the U18 AA Jr. Predators.

As well as his dedication to both academics and athletics, Lutz still finds time to serve his community, volunteering regularly with Middle Tennessee Special Olympics, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and his local church.

Kaycee Hurd, Cheatham County Central High School, Ashland City, Tenn.

In preparation for continuing her education at the college level, Hurd has taken dual enrollment and advanced courses during high school, receiving awards and acclamations in both art and Spanish. In addition to her hard work academically at school, Hurd is also involved in aspects of student life, serving as a member of the Prom Committee, the Pep Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and as Senior Class President.

In January, Hurd signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her softball career at Martin Methodist College, where she will be pursuing a degree in marketing. A four-year letter winner in both softball and volleyball, Hurd has received multiple awards in both sports, highlighted by a spot on the All-District Softball Team in 2013.

Hurd serves her community through her participation in the Beta Club, volunteering with Ronald McDonald House, Second Harvest Food Bank, Hillcrest Nursing Home, West Cheatham Elementary and Ashland City Elementary.

Emily Spence, Marshall County High School, Lewisburg, Tenn.

This spring, Spence will graduate third in her class of 170 students after maintaining a 4.0 GPA and taking every honors and AP class that her high school offers. Beyond her studies at school, Spence, who will attend the University of Tennessee – Knoxville in the fall, has taken a leadership role as President of Student Council, President of her class, Ads Editor and Business Manager of the yearbook staff and more.

Spence has played varsity soccer at Marshall County High School for four years. Elected captain by her teammates during her junior and senior seasons, Spence was the leading scorer for the past two years, earning All-District honors.

Active in her community, Spence has assisted with Lion’s Club Fundraisers, served food at the Care Kitchen and aided the local police department in programs that assist young children. A recipient of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Good Citizen Award, Spence also volunteers with the American Red Cross and recently helped organize a community 5K race to raise funds for a local boy fighting leukemia.

Including this year’s recipients, the Nashville Predators Foundation has awarded more than $90,000 to the 37 recipients of the Jack Diller Education Award. Past award winners include:


Jayce Arnette of Franklin (North Carolina State University)

Taylor Blanton of Woodbury (Tennessee Tech University)

Katherine Ferguson of Nashville (Auburn University)

Hunter Kinslow of Nashville (TBD)


Haley Doty of White House (Lincoln Memorial University)

Jordan LaRocca of Spring Hill (Lee University)

Sarah Plantz of Brentwood (University of South Carolina at Columbia)

Christopher Wilson of Gallatin (Tennessee Tech University)


Leena Patel of Springfield (Sewanee University)

Abigail Wilson of Gallatin (Cumberland University)

Patrick Brooks of Brentwood

Ian Kukowski of Brentwood (University of Pennsylvania)


Greg Ray of Manchester (Middle Tennessee State University)

Whitley Rowlett of Mt. Juliet (Middle Tennessee State University)

Tazlyn Saez of Lebanon (Volunteer State Community College)

Joseph Scearce of Murfreesboro (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)


Anna Caruso of Winchester (Middle Tennessee State University)

Reginald Ford of Nashville (Vanderbilt University)

Rudi Monyjang of Nashville (University of Tennessee at Knoxville)

Tavares Smith of Nashville (Bethune-Cookman University)


Jeremy Bost of Mt. Juliet (Lipscomb University)

Rebecca Brewster of Brentwood (University of Georgia - Athens)

Michael Heslin of Hendersonville (University of Tennessee at Knoxville)

Chelsey Traughber of Cedar Hill (Austin Peay State University)


Isabel Boersma of Franklin (College of Charleston)

Ryan Proctor of Nashville (Auburn University)

Adriana Short of Madison (Middle Tennessee State University)

Charles Tomkins of Gallatin (University of Tennessee – Chattanooga)


Lisa Bentley of Springfield (Tennessee Tech)

Sara Bentley of Springfield (Belmont University)

William Dale of Nashville (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill)

Hayley Harmon of Lebanon (Tennessee Tech)

Bao Nguyen of Antioch (Belmont University)

Created in 1997 at the inception of the Nashville Predators franchise, the Nashville Predators Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) charity, is part of a commitment to fulfilling the team’s recognized responsibility to play an important role in its home community. Through the support of fans at various fundraising events held throughout the year, the Foundation is able to award several hundred thousand dollars in grants and in-kind donations to charities and community service organizations throughout Nashville and Middle Tennessee.

For more information on the Nashville Predators Foundation or the Jack Diller Education Award, please visit

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