Color Me Rich

Elissa McLerran, a senior agribusiness management major from Hermitage Springs, Tenn., must never have heard the proverb that says “two wrongs don’t make a right.” McLerran dedicated herself to producing a positive outcome from two adverse events: the death of a close friend and budget cuts in her home county. “Color Me Rich” is a 5k charity run organized by McLerran, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. in Celina, Tenn. Proceeds will go to the Richard Roberts scholarship fund and drug awareness classes in the Clay County school system.

Richard Roberts was a junior sociology major at Tech when he passed away in Dec. 2012. Originally from Celina, Roberts graduated from Clay County High School in 2010 as co-salutatorian with a 4.0 grade point average.

 “Richard was the type to bloom where he was planted. But he loved Celina, he loved his community and he loved Dale Hollow Lake. He would always talk about going off to do big things, but I always thought he would come back and do environmental law. He always said he just wanted to make a change,” said fellow Celina native and senior nursing major Courtney Key.

Prior to his death, Roberts was committed to helping those in need, especially individuals who were suffering from drug-related problems. While in high school, Roberts and McLerran helped form an anonymous drug hotline for Clay County that worked in conjunction with the sheriff’s office. Since that time, funding has been cut for substance abuse prevention education programs, such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E).

Roberts’ commitment to combating the prevalent drug issues in his community and the budget cuts affecting Clay County schools are the primary reasons McLerran chose to shed light on the issue. McLerran plans to give the Color Me Rich run proceeds to the school system to reestablish funding for drug awareness classes.

“The bottom line is in Clay County, drugs are such a huge problem in the school system now and finding out that they don’t have any programs against it is why I picked this need,” said McLerran.  

 Roberts’ friends are looking forward to the run because they know he was passionate about stopping the widespread drug use that plagues his home county.

“I am really excited to see our fellow classmates and community in general come together to do something that celebrates Richard’s life and raises money for the school system,” said Kayla Kimes, a senior animal science and agribusiness management major from Celina.

“I hate what happened [Roberts’ death], and I hate that for his family,” said McLerran. “But if good things can come from this and if more people can be helped in the future, then that’s what I want. So that’s why the money is going to go towards his scholarship fund and towards anti-drug programs in Clay County High School.”

The loss of a lively, passionate soul and the loss of funding for essential drug prevention programs are the two wrongs that McLerran is striving to make right by starting the Color Me Rich run.           

For more details, go to and search “color me rich.”