Elam Scholarship commemorates lost loved one

Justin Tanner Elam was born on Dec. 6, 1993.

A Surry County native, Justin had a passion for knowledge and a voracious appetite for food and books.

His family remembers him as unique, scary smart and living life with passion. Justin wouldn’t do anything if he didn’t do it 100%.

Justin was a high achiever, gaining recognition as a member of the National Honors Society and as a Presidential Scholar. In high school he discovered a love for gaming and graphic animation that became the focus of his senior project.

In March 2010, the Elam family received news that would change their lives forever: Justin was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma. This is a rare disease in which cancer invades the body’s bone or soft tissues in the form of a small malignant blue cell tumor.

Justin battled cancer for four long years while attending high school and even taking college courses.

On Sept. 25, 2014, Justin fell victim to the cancer.

In order to commemorate the exceptional life Justin lead, his family and friends joined together to establish the Justin T. Elam Scholarship Fund.

Beginning in 2015, the scholarship is given every year to students who exemplify Justin’s high achievement with a preference for those interested in computer graphics or a career in the medical field.

The inaugural recipient of the scholarship award exemplifies Justin’s legacy in the highest possible manner.

Joy Cockerham was class valedictorian at Surry Central High School, the school Justin attended while battling cancer.

The scholarship award signified an incredibly bitter-sweet moment for the family, as Justin’s sister, Sydney, presented the scholarship award herself to Cockerham.

Cockerham is attending Wake Forest University with the help of the scholarship, where she is studying biology and neuroscience and hopes to one day attend medical school.

“I think that I was chosen for this scholarship because of my passion for helping people shown through past experiences and my determination to be successful in reaching my goal to be a medical doctor,” said Cockerham.

Not only does Cockerham intend to peruse the medical field, but she hopes to one day use her education for the benefit of her local community. “The education I am able to receive will help me to be able to give back to my community and open my own doctor’s office in my hometown in Surry County,” she said.

One day, the education being funded by the generosity of the Elam family and friends may be used to help people like Justin.

“I intend on showing gratitude as a scholarship award recipient now by using this scholarship to further my education and use it to fulfill my goals to become a doctor to help patients like Justin,” said Cockerham.

One young woman, with the potential to impact countless lives, is seeing her future empowered by the generosity and love of a community that has felt such loss.