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JCPS seniors surprised with employee-funded scholarships

Dr. Pollio launched the fund this year, and teachers donated nearly $50,000.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Teachers are known for going above and beyond, with a perfect example of that happening in the state’s largest school district Friday. Last summer, Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio launched a district-sponsored scholarship fund for students. Friday morning, it came full-circle with eight seniors getting the surprise of a lifetime.

"We really wanted to identify kids that it would make a difference for, like first generation college-going students, students who have gone through hardships, students where this will definitely make a difference in them graduating and not graduating,” Dr. Pollio said. "These are kids who have overcome challenges, and each and every one of them are doing incredible in school, volunteering, working full-time, having a positive impact on our community. So, it was probably one of the best things I've been able to do in this job is to come around and give scholarships to these kids."

Dr. Pollio surprised the winners at six different schools. He started the day at Eastern and then made stops at Waggener, Western, Butler, Shawnee and Central.

"It's an exciting day for us,” Dr. Pollio said. "It really does show what teachers want to do. They want to make a difference. It just shows teachers really care and want kids to be successful, and that's why we're in this business."

Safe to say, each winner was beyond shocked when the surprise squad showed up.

"As soon as I saw those cameras coming, I knew they weren't coming for no reason. I was looking for Mr. Pollio, thinking he was going to come in any minute,” Shawnee senior and scholarship winner Den’Nasha Turner said.

Turner is studying education at Kentucky State University and plans to come back to JCPS to teach. Her $10,000 scholarship will cover the rest of her tuition.

"I'll be able to give back to other kids like myself. Whatever I wanted, I knew I had to go get with an education, with a pencil in my hand, with paper in my backpack. That's all I had to my name, and that's all I'll ever have is just my knowledge,” Turner said. "Pain is temporary. That is one thing I can say. You have to push through it. You've got to know that tomorrow is another day. Next week is important. Next month is even more important. You've got to plan ahead. You've got to know that today is not going to be gloomy all day. You've got more to look forward to."

Asha Reaves got the biggest award of $11,000. The Western senior already has her associates from JCTC, and this money will cover the rest of her undergrad at IUS. She’s studying applied developmental psychology.

"It means everything to me. I didn't really know how I was going to pay for it, but I was going to try and keep applying for more scholarships and more scholarships. This is just a big relief off my shoulders to know I don't have to do anything else,” Reaves said.

Dr. Pollio wanted this to be a way to increase the college-going culture for students in the district. He launched it at the administrator retreat last August, and it spread like wildfire. Administrators and teachers donate a part of each paycheck to the fund. Together, they raised nearly $50,000 in less than a year. 116 students applied this year. Out of that, 11 finalists got interviewed and eight won the scholarships.

Click here to read about each of the winners. 

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