As graduates get ready to build toward their future, a local Thrall graduate wants to help inspirational seniors build something else to get through a unique time.

Narrow Gate Foundation, faith-based nonprofit, recently launched Inspire US 2020. The nationwide search aims to identify five college graduates and five high school graduates from the class of 2020 who are making a difference in extraordinary ways. Grant Batson is an artisan education director at Narrow Gate Lodge in Williamsport, Tennessee. The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. on May 31.

Batson, of Taylor, is a 1993 graduate of Thrall High School and the son of Mike and Jan Batson. The Thrall grad is a master luthier and was featured last month on the HGTV series, “Home Town.” He taught show host Ben Napier how to build a guitar.

“Last night’s episode featured a bucket list build for me. Grant Batson has been a friend for a while, and I’ve been dying to take the guitar-building workshop at Narrow Gate Lodge, but haven’t been able to find the time,” said Napier on April 14. “When I called him and explained that I was working with a homeowner who was obsessed with guitars, he said that he could bring the workshop to me. I learned more about wood and sound in those hours than I’ve ever known.”

This month, however, Batson’s focus is on the class of 2020, whose grads have had their ceremonies canceled, postponed or online in response the COVID-19 pandemic. He says he wants to offer them something real and meaningful.

"At the time I graduated both high school and college, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had lots of interests, but felt very directionless.

Then at the age of 15, Batson built his first guitar. He had no knowledge, training or internet to help him.

“It was a horrible excuse for a guitar,” Batson said, “but I had a blast in the process. It sparked a deeper interest and a new confidence that served as a stepping stone for further explorations. Today, I'm not sure that the gaggle of instantaneous bits of knowledge are more help than hindrance to young people. But what I do know is that, as a young man, finding opportunity to put your hand to something that feels risky, and perhaps even unachievable, can be a stepping stone into a world of confidence and intrigue that may have remained dormant forever.”

When the coronavirus pandemic canceled the rites of passage of many grads, Narrow Gate set out to find a way to create a milestone memory for some extraordinary grads.

"It's part of the American dream — graduating and preparing to make your mark on the world, whether that looks like pursuing more education or landing your first full-time job," said Bill Spencer, co-founder and executive director of Narrow Gate with his wife, Stacy. "This year, for many young men, that dream has been crushed. high school graduations have been canceled or postponed. College graduations have gone online. First jobs have turned into layoffs and furloughs. But rather than giving up hope, young men across our nation are inspiring hope, and Narrow Gate is looking for them.”

“We originally launched our high-end guitar-building workshops with master luthier Grant Batson, Narrow Gate’s director of artisan education and co-founder of Batson Guitars, to raise money and help keep Narrow Gate Lodge tuition-free,” said Stacy Spencer. “Inspire Us 2020 is a mashup of the guitar-building class and the eight-month experience.”

Winners will be chosen from the candidates who best exemplify one or more of the core values of Narrow Gate: generosity, selflessness, devotion, community, growth or excellence.

The prize is a six-day build-your-own-guitar retreat at Narrow Gate Lodge, located an hour southwest of Nashville, Tennessee, near the Duck River in Williamsport. Winners will also receive reportedly delicious meals, up to $250 to cover travel expenses, and single-occupant lodging in a luxury treehouse with a queen-sized bed, full private bathroom, coffee maker and mini-fridge. Dates are to be determined for July or August.

For more information or to nominate a senior for this contest, visit

“I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to escort this handful of young men on an exploratory adventure of a lifetime,” added Batson. “It will undoubtedly spark new curiosities and hopefully a greater belief in themselves.”

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