/PRNewswire/ -- In the midst of companies looking for ways to trim costs and reduce budgets, Chick-fil-A continues its 36-year commitment to education with founder S. Truett Cathy reaching his $25 million Leadership Scholarship milestone during a year when the restaurant chain has allocated $1.4 million in scholarships to be awarded to its restaurant team members.
Cathy was joined Monday morning by Ambassador Andrew Young and other local political and community leaders at a ceremony celebrating his milestone and acknowledgement of the 25,000th Leadership Scholarship to Chick-fil-A team member Jamie Dyche of Bossier City, La. The ceremony was held at Atlanta's downtown 23-foot Chick-fil-A "Climb with Care and Confidence" statue that was commissioned in 1995 by Georgia State University art students to celebrate Cathy's 10,000th scholarship milestone.
Commemorating the event was the unveiling of a plaque with the image of a mayonnaise jar. The plaque is symbolic of the story that occurred 54-years-ago when Cathy encouraged and helped one of his earliest restaurant team members, Eddie White, to attend college.
Cathy placed a collection jar in his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill from which the chain was founded, to raise funds for White -- who was present at today's celebration. At the end of the summer, Cathy wrote a personal check to make up the lacking funds for White, who became the first in his family to attend and graduate from college.
The celebration will culminated Monday evening at the Gwinnett Braves' game in Lawrenceville, Ga., where Cathy and Dyche threw out the first pitch.
The venue was an appropriate ending to the day as it reflected other educational programs the chain supports. Chick-fil-A and the Atlanta Braves are partners in the All-Star Student Achievers program which awards Braves tickets and Chick-fil-A coupons to Georgia's high-achieving K-12 students.
In addition to Dyche, who works for franchised Operator John Roden at the stand-alone Bossier City Chick-fil-A restaurant at I-220 & Airline Drive, Cathy was joined by other milestone scholarship winners for the celebration including first Leadership Scholarship recipient Larry Jackson, who worked at the first Chick-fil-A restaurant at Greenbriar Shopping Center and graduated with a bachelor's and master's degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech; and 20,000th recipient Erica Lampkin, who graduated from Atlanta's Spelman College in May and plans to attend medical school.
Also attending the events was recipient Dr. David Vaillancourt, founder of the National Math Bee, who symbolizes the great achievements of many scholarship recipients who have carried out Cathy's vision to have a positive influence on the world.
"I realized very early in my career that our restaurants present an opportunity to do more than just provide great service and food. They enable us to mentor our restaurant team members by teaching them core values and how to achieve excellence, as well as encouraging continued education with scholarships," said Cathy. "In these challenging economic times, we're thrilled to be able to help Jamie and some 1,400 other team members this year reach their academic goals so they will have the necessary tools to secure a bright future for themselves and our nation."
Scholarships have now grown to include 25,000 restaurant team members benefiting from the founder's commitment to education with Chick-fil-A's Leadership Scholarship program formally organized in 1973. Restaurant team members have attended more than 2,400 colleges, universities and other educational institutions across the country with the aid of these scholarships.
Following college graduation, many of these restaurant team members pursue full-time careers at Chick-fil-A, such as Dyche's franchisee Operator John Roden, who also received one of the chain's scholarships while working during high school for Chick-fil-A. Roden has now helped 19 of his restaurant team members benefit from the same scholarship program.
The Leadership Scholarship program provides $1,000 scholarships to its restaurant team members who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of work, education, community and personal leadership development.
Chick-fil-A also awards S. Truett Cathy Scholar Awards, which provide additional $1,000 scholarships to the top 25 Chick-fil-A Leadership Scholarship recipients each year. Implemented in 1996 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Chick-fil-A's scholarship program, this year's S. Truett Cathy Award recipients brought the total awarded to $325,000.
Additionally, Chick-fil-A's WinShape Foundation provides thousands of dollars in scholarships to qualifying students enrolled in Berry College in Rome, Ga. WinShape's partnership with Berry College offers joint four-year scholarship funding to students of up to $32,000. To date, the foundation has awarded approximately 951 scholarships to students from across the nation to attend Berry, one of the top regional liberal arts schools in the country.
The Council for Aid to Education has indicated that no other company in terms of size does as much in the scholarship area as Chick-fil-A. "Like the name of our foundation, WinShape, it has always been my goal to help shape winners out of young people," added Cathy.
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