Fittingly, representatives from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley returned to Columbus High School for the second consecutive morning.
That’s because they made another surprise announcement there, declaring another Columbus High senior the winner of another prestigious scholarship. And that’s because these two scholarships are, in a way, sewn together.
Tuesday, foundation President and CEO Betsy Covington told Genesis Cooper that she will receive as much as $7,200 annually for four years of college as the 2017 winner of the James Henry Smith and Gladys Manning Smith Scholarship. Wednesday, Covington broke similarly super news to a different Columbus High senior.
As the 2017 winner of the Jeannette Williamson Craig & Eugene L. Craig Scholarship, Andrew Cho will receive $5,000 annually for four years of college.
In the wake of Mrs. Craig’s death last April, Mr. Craig and their children were inspired to contact the foundation and set up this scholarship when they read the Ledger-Enquirer’s story last year about the ninth recipient of the Smith Scholarship, which the foundation administers as well.
While the Smith Scholarship is funded through a bequest after the deaths of the thrifty couple (he was a firefighter; she was a millworker), the Craig Scholarship is funded through an endowed fund honoring the Craigs’ combined 70 years of service in the Muscogee County School District before they retired in 1995.
Mrs. Craig was a teacher and media specialist for 25 years at elementary schools Davis, Double Churches and Northside, now called Allen. Mr. Craig taught at his alma mater, Jordan Vocational High School, and was the assistant principal of Reese Road Elementary, then led Waddell Elementary as principal for 29 years. He is a former member of the executive committee of the Muscogee County Principals Association and the Muscogee Educators Association and was president of the Muscogee County Retired Educators Association.
Now, there are 10 Smith Scholars — and Andrew is the inaugural Craig Scholar.
Covington surprised Genesis by announcing her as the Smith Scholarship winner during her humanities class. Covington surprised Andrew by having him sent to the guidance office.
“I thought I was in trouble,” Andrew said, cracking up the gathering.
Covington told Andrew that the selection committee “wanted this first Craig Scholar to be someone special, who demonstrates a commitment to education, and Andrew, you are amazing. You have done incredible things already in your life, and I suspect we are going to look for great things from you. I am very excited about your trajectory, and we look forward to helping support your work for the next four years.”
Andrew grew up in South Korea and came to Columbus with his divorced mother as a fifth-grader. He had limited conversational English skills then, but he ended up earning a perfect 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT and scored 750 in math and 770 in writing. He also has a 4.4 grade-point average.
Through the Student 2 Student program at Columbus High, Andrew organized a book drive and mentoring program at Wynnton Arts Academy. He is president of his Science Olympiad team, assists with patient activities at the Alzheimer’s Ward of Orchard View Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center, works part-time for a landscaping company and runs his own tutoring business.
For his senior project, Andrew wrote a private book about his paternal grandfather, who died last year and was a refugee from North Korea during the Korean War but became a three-star general in the South Korean Marine Corps.
Mr. Craig told Andrew, “You record is impeccable. We’re proud of you very much.”
Later, Mr. Craig noted that Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death. He told Andrew, “She would have loved to be here and see you get this award.”
Andrew replied, “Thank you so much, sir.”
MCSD superintendent David Lewis thanked Mr. Craig and his family “for affording this opportunity and extending that legacy your wife and you so much cultivated in this community in terms of education.” He also thanked the foundation “for being that conduit that allows talented students such as this young man” to more easily pay for college. And, to Andrew, he said, “We know you’re going to represent your family and the Craigs and our school district as well as our entire community very well.”
Approximately 40 Columbus area high school seniors applied for the Craig Scholarship and the Smith Scholarship. Mr. Craig and his son, Mike, were on the selection committee that interviewed Andrew.
“You were among a large group of leaders,” Mike told Andrew, “and you just stood out as a leader among those leaders. You were like a ray of light when you came in that room, and when you left, it was like a vacuum. My dad, his hand squeezed mine, and I knew there was something there that resonated with him, that he saw in you.”
The slogan for the Craig Scholarship is “Sewing a Love for Learning.” To show it, the family donated Mrs. Craig’s 1890 Singer sewing machine as a gift to the foundation, which has kept the machine in its midtown Columbus office, waiting to affix a plaque inscribed with the first recipient’s name and saving room for subsequent winners.
Covington told Andrew such a love for learning has “already sprouted in you. So we’ll just help pour some fertilizer.”
In an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, Andrew said he plans to study pre-med at Johns Hopkins University. He wants to eventually work in geriatrics and use his writing talent to create “accessible literature for the general population as far as preventative care,” he said.
Asked for his reaction to winning the scholarship, Andrew said, “It takes a lot of mental gymnastics for me to feel good about myself, because I never feel like I’m good enough for what I do, but this just affirms what I’ve done for the past four years, and I feel eternally grateful.”
How to apply or donate
For information about applying for this or any other scholarship the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley administers, or to make a donation or establish a fund, call 706-320-0027.