They met as Rogers Scholars. Now the University of Kentucky graduates Emilia Bustle and Emerson James are getting married. James surprises Bustle with an on-stage proposal. They plan to marry in September in Bustle’s home town in Laurel County.

2013 Rogers Scholars and newly engaged couple Emilia Bustle and Emerson James met for the first time at a getting-to-know-you exercise where students introduce themselves to each other on the opening day of Scholars.

Bustle was a student at South Laurel High School. James attended West Jessamine High School.

2013 Rogers Scholars Emilia Bustle and Emerson James met for the first time at a getting-to-know-you exercise.

Little did they know at the time this meeting would lead to the start of a beautiful friendship, eventually a relationship, and finally a marriage proposal several years later while students at the University of Kentucky.

“I was in the broadcasting major and he was in the engineering major,” Bustle recalled. “We didn’t know each other before Rogers Scholars. Our first time meeting was on the first day during a getting-to-know-you exercise. I specifically remember sitting with Emerson at lunch one day and getting to know him.”

The high school students bonded over their love for music.  She is a singer. He plays guitar. After graduating from Rogers Scholars, the two went their separate ways. However, they reconnected at a Rogers Scholars 5K race to help raise money for the program.

The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Scholars program, a week-long summer leadership and entrepreneurial camp for rising high school juniors in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, brought Bustle and James together. But the impact of the program can be felt in every aspect of their lives—from leadership development to career choices.

“Rogers Scholars put me in an environment of individuals who were all highly motivated, intelligent, and ready to change the world,” Bustle said. “When you’re in an environment with like-minded individuals, it causes you to collaborate and create new and innovative ways to serve others and inspires you to be a better leader.”

UK graduates Emilia Bustle and Emerson James

Both have stayed in close contact with students they met while in Rogers Scholars and a few have served with them in leadership roles at the University of Kentucky.

James, a Rogers Scholars engineering major, said the experience helped shape his career choices.

“I will always consider Rogers Scholars as a stepping stone toward my career as a mechanical engineer,” he said. “Before the program, I did not know what I wanted my career path to look like. But as a Scholar, I was introduced to engineering. After a few of these engineering-focused sessions, I was able to determine that I wanted to be an engineer. I can remember learning about various physics principles and how they can be applied to cool stuff, like water balloons and slow-motion cameras.”

James graduated in May with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. Bustle graduated with a bachelor of arts in theatre, bachelor of arts in communication, and musical theatre certificate.

The two plan to marry in September in Bustle’s home town in Laurel County. They are about to start a life together as husband and wife, but both say they will not forget their time together as Rogers Scholars.

“Rogers Scholars was such an integral part of our educational journey,” Bustle said. “The skills, friendships, and memories will truly last us a lifetime.”