“I feel like getting a scholarship will give me an opportunity to help me advance through school, and it gives me some hope to do something with my life,” said D’Andre Cochran, a graduating senior who previously received a GateKey scholarship.
Cochran was recognized with several other seniors who have received a gold stole to wear during their graduation ceremony, recognizing the students as GateKey scholars.
“I’m thinking about majoring in criminal justice, but I’m not completely sure yet,” Cochran said.
Cochran’s mother, Jamie Hall, said she was proud of her son’s accomplishment.
“He’s the first one in our family to get a college scholarship,” Hall said.
The scholarships, funded by donations to the foundation, are two-year scholarships awarded for Chattahoochee Technical College or Georgia Highlands College. However, recipients can petition the foundation to use alloted scholarship funds toward other colleges.
Foundation President Lisa Bell has explained the GateKey program takes students who are considered to be college-bound, but are on free or reduced lunch and lack other support systems to make it to college once they graduate high school.
Beyond maintaining at least a C average and completing high school within four years without any significant disciplinary problems, each student must also write a letter to the foundation each year informing the organization of his academic progress and plans.
Gov. Nathan Deal previously announced the state’s REACH scholarship will be modeled after the GateKey model, which Superintendent Howard Hinesley brought to the city after serving as a superintendent in a Florida public school district with a similar program.
Among the recognition for students at the event, Hinesley announced a new award for those who have been instrumental in guiding students through the GateKey program. This year, the Superintendent’s Hero awards went to Bell and parent Audrey Andersen.
Students showed their appreciation for Bell and Andersen by sharing stories about how the two played an integral role in the students’ education. For example, CHS graduate and University of Georgia student Samuel Gomez spoke via video recording on how Andersen encouraged him to meet his goals.
“Ms. Andersen, thank you for all you’ve done and all you continue to do for me,” Gomez said, adding he appreciates the opportunity associated with the GateKey scholarship. “... You have also provided me with the encouragement and confidence to step outside my comfort zone and pursue something bigger.”
This year’s GateKey scholars are Kristen Abbott, eighth grade; Jazmin Albarran, sixth grade; Kessani Barefoot, sixth grade; Warren Carson, 11th grade; Destiny Clark, 10th grade; Karahn Davis, seventh grade; Joey Kuzma, ninth grade; Efrain Milian, ninth grade; Shandez Moore, ninth grade; and Jhonny Valente, 10th grade.