Elam Scholarship commemorates lost loved one

This post was updated in March 2024

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 died due to the disease.

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 has supported 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 2015 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 attended Wake Forest University with the help of the scholarship, where she is studied biology and neuroscience with the goal of joining the medical profession.

“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 go into medicine.” said Cockerham.