Brookwood Student Spotlight: Thatcher Rotenberry


Gracie Green, Editor-in-Chief

Thatcher Rotenberry does it all: scouting, helping in campaigns for possible senators, working on Panther Talk, starting a local newspaper, musical theater, and even working with children at Camp Horne.

The Boy Scouts of America is a very significant part of Rotenberry’s life. He first joined as a Cub Scout when he was in first grade from which he had to drop out due to some family circumstances; he rejoined when he was in the third grade. By fifth grade, Rotenberry became the youngest senior patrol leader in Troop 3 history. While recalling his time in the Scouts, Rotenberry explains that he was very aggressive as a child, partly due to his Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD), and that the Scouts is what helped him learn how to handle his aggressive behavior by allowing him to socially mature.

Rotenberry is now an Eagle Scout and a member of the Scout’s honor society, the Order of the Arrow(OA). When asked if he had a life defining moment, Rotenberry responded by describing his induction into the OA and by telling how it was one of his proudest accomplishments. Rotenberry reveals that he cannot discuss much of the OA because he is under a vow of silence, but he discusses the induction ceremony, as it is their only public event. “It’s Thursday night, summer camp, and this person comes out in bearskin clothes, a hat made out of raccoon fur with bison horns on it, he has a walking stick, and a coyote pack on his back. He comes out and he’s telling you all of this stuff about the Order of the Arrow and how only the best of the best are selected for this organization…Think about being twelve or thirteen and going through this ceremony.” This is the only ceremony that Rotenberry can discuss about the OA but he recalls the event as one of the most important nights of his life.

Rotenberry also names events such as reaching the summit of Mount Baldy at Philmont Scout Ranch on a twelve day backpacking trip. Rotenberry explains that his troop does not have the means to support trips such as Philmont but that he was lucky enough to be able to go. “I get told that getting to the top of Mount Baldy is a humbling thing, so I get to the top expecting to be humbled and think that I’m so insignificant in the cosmos and my first thought is ‘nothing can stop me.’ I struggle with some insecurities about things that I may just not be physically or mentally able to do, but I reach the top of this mountain and all I can think is ‘this is everything, nothing can stop me.’ I’m part of the same earth as this mountain”, Rotenberry says. He states that reaching the top of Mount Baldy washed away a lot of the insecurities that he faces due to his ASD. A week after Rotenberry returned to Brookwood from Filmont, he traveled to Knoxville to be in a show for the OA. He originally meant to apply to edit videos for the show, but he accidentally signed up for a speaking role. Rotenberry says that having that experience of speaking and having to be in front of people was good for him, but notes that he does not know if he would have been able to do it if he had not experienced Philmont beforehand.

One of Rotenberry’s many niches is Mass Media, a class at Brookwood High School. The class is based around Panther Talk, Brookwood’s School new show. Rotenberry joined the class because he assumed that it would be an easy class that he could just sit around in; however, he was put in the class during the Covid-19 pandemic and he did not physically attend the class until the second quarter of the school year. When Rotenberry finally got to attend class, he realized that he enjoyed being a part of a class where he got to film and edit videos. On the first day of his junior year, Thatcher decided he wanted to learn how to produce for Panther Talk. He became the primary producer for his junior and senior years in Mass Media. Rotenberry is also the spearhead of The Hurricane Herald. He decided after attending the convention for the Southern Interscholastic Press Association(SIPA) in 2022 that he wanted Brookwood High School to be able to attend competition at the same level as other schools with bigger broadcast programs, meaning that he wanted a newspaper to be part of Mass Media. Rotenberry personally sought to find funding and support for the newspaper; he reached out to Brookwood’s Town Council for funding and to Sarah Tarbox to ask if she would be the advisor of the newspaper. Rotenberry sees The Hurricane Herald as one of his most significant marks on Mass Media. Rotenberry feels that Brookwood High School could compete on an even larger scale with a literary magazine and a yearbook. While attending SIPA during his junior year, Rotenberry decided the he wanted to run for president of SIPA during his senior year. He was told by Leslie Dennis that he could not be president because that position was already filled, but that he could be vice-president, which is just another one of his many leadership positions.

Aside from Mass Media, Rotenberry is also involved in Brookwood High School’s musical theater class under David Blackwell. He signed up because his dad wanted him to due to his sister being involved in it when she was in high school, but it became another activity that he really enjoyed being a part of. The production that really started the class for Rotenberry was Aladdin, the spring production of his sophomore year. Originally, Rotenberry audition for Aladdin’s pet monkey, Abu, but he was cast as the Sultan. He was the first student off script in the class. However, after missing school for a day, he returned to learn that he been given the more significant role of Jafar and he had to learn an entirely different script. Rotenberry says that his role as Jafar also helped build his confidence in public speaking. He continued to take musical theater, playing the role of the Big Bad Wolf in Shrek during his junior year. Rotenberry states that he is looking forward to the spring production of 2022.

When asked if he considers himself a role model, Rotenberry says that it is a complicated question. He is willing to say that there are people who he has had an impact on. For example, Rotenberry mentions one of his classmates in Mass Media who he has mentored in production, Aubrey Mayhew: “You know, we joke about it, but there is a certain level where that impact of leadership carries over into how she handles work on Panther Talk.” Rotenberry also mentions people that he has worked with in certain scouting environments, such as Hudson Long, who wrote about Rotenberry being a role model for a school assignment in the eight grade. Furthermore, Rotenberry mentions some of his own role models that he had when he went to summer camp as kid and how now, as a counselor at Camp Horne, he is probably what some of the kids see as a role model as well.

Aside from the Scouts and school related activities, Rotenberry was also involved in Lisa Ward’s campaign for senator. He is an outwardly left leaning person with conventionally liberal views coming from the idea that he really believes in acceptance of all people. Therefore, when Rotenberry saw a democratic candidate actually running to represent Alabama in the Senate, he knew he wanted to get involved. He tried to apply online to help campaign, but he was not allowed because he was too young. Rotenberry then reached out to Lisa Ward through Instagram in an attempt to get her attention. She asked if he could possibly do some graphics for her campaign, to which Rotenberry agreed. He also did medial work just to help with her campaign. Ward did lose the election, but Rotenberry believes that Ward’s act of actively running as a democratic candidate in the Pickens County and Tuscaloosa County area opened up a space for democrats in the area.

When asked about how all of his accomplishments have affected the course of his life, Rotenberry says, “I don’t feel accomplished until I have made everyone’s lives around me better.”