EAST ST. LOUIS — Five students from East St. Louis received college scholarships for $75,000 each from the McDonald's Corp.
Starr'Retiece Gibson, Destiny Gray, Dennis Jackson, Gift Kamau and Karmeen Powell-Childress were honored during a ceremony Friday at the McDonald's at 25th and State streets.
Officials from East St. Louis School District 189, the United Negro College Fund and H and L Marketing, the arm that does the marketing for McDonald's, each took turns showering praise upon those who had worked so hard for 12 years to get to the place where they had arrived: On their way to college in the fall.
James E. Williams Jr., who has owned the State Street McDonald's for one year, was on hand to congratulate, the young scholars to stay close to their dreams and goals and always have the will to do the little extra that will carry them a lot further toward their dreams.
"McDonald's is giving out 25 scholarships in the amount of $75,000 each. We have with us today five kids who have done a wonderful job competing out there. The other 20 students who will receive scholarships are from the St. Louis area," Williams said
"It's something that McDonald's has done for the last 13 years. We've always been involved in education. It's part of our DNA. Ray Kroc was the founder of McDonald's and he instilled education into our system," Williams said.
Jackson said he is going to attend Lincoln University. His mother, Phyllis Jackson, snapped one picture after another and grinned throughout the two-hour long ceremony.
"It was outstanding for him to be selected out of 300 students," she said.
Gray wants to study business administration at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston and sports management. She said she learned she had been chosen in early May.
"I am excited to be chosen out of 300 other students," she said.
Powell-Childress said, "I am proud of what I have accomplished so far. This is just a start though. I am ready for the next step. And, I thank McDonald's Corp. for the scholarship."
Gibson plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study food science and nutrition.
"It will definitely help me to further my education. Without it, it would have been much harder," Gibson said of her scholarship.
Kamau was another recipient whose smile lit up the dining area in McDonald's as she took her certificate and lap top that each student got from McDonald's.
Kamau is going to St. Louis University, where she will study dietetics with an emphasis on pre-med.
"She has been an exceptional child who has always liked school. She's been getting A grades. I am happy for her. I know she will do well," her mother Catherine Kamau said.
Leslie Holloway, area development director of United Negro College Fund for Missouri and Kansas, called the students "amazing." She thanked their parents for the hard work they put in to raise their children in a manner that will lead them to a bright future.
Beth Shepperd, the former assistant superintendent for Human Resources and Communications in District 189, stood in for Superintendent Arthur Culver. She told the students she truly believes there are some success stories within District 189. She told them they had wonderful parents and then pointed to Williams as an example. Williams grew up in East St. Louis in a neighborhood similar to ones that many of the students live in now. And, he now owns eight McDonald's restaurants.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.