A small idea is reaping big rewards for city of Gainesville employees and their children.
Since 2012, almost $10,000 has been awarded through the “You’re the Reason” scholarship awards program funded by city employees.
Andria Jimenez, a 17-year-old Johnson High School senior, became the latest $1,000 top scholarship winner. She was selected from among five other students vying for the top award.
Jimenez’s father, Hector, works for the Gainesville Police Department as a property and evidence custodian. He proudly stood next to his daughter as she received her award during the Gainesville City Council meeting this week.
Jimenez said she will be attending the University of West Georgia in the fall.
Hector Jimenez said Andria wants to pursue a profession where she can help people. He said she’s talked about either becoming a nutritionist, physical therapist or a forensic expert.
The proud dad said he could not believe it when her name was called out as the top scholarship winner during the council meeting.
“I got chills,” he confessed.
Jimenez said his wife, Dianne, was not feeling well enough to attend the meeting. He said she cried when told of the Andria’s achievement.
Another $1,300 was distributed in smaller scholarships to five other high school seniors through “You’re the Reason.”
Catiel Felts, the city’s communications and tourism director, said she got the idea for the program in 2011 — the year her daughter applied for and got a few small scholarships during her senior year in high school.
“It occurred to me the power of a city with 750 employees,” Felts said. “If we all gave a few dollars, we could offer a scholarship, too.”
Through small fundraising events and payroll deductions, employees have been able to raise in the neighborhood of $2,000 a year that goes into an employee community trust fund. The first scholarships were awarded in 2012.
To apply for the scholarships, employees’ children must be in good standing at their high schools, plan on attending a two-year college or four-year university, and have clearly defined educational objectives along with an academic record indicating that stated goals are realistic.
Finalists are interviewed by judges who do not work for the city, Felts said.
Katie Crumley, spokeswoman for Hall County government, and Kris Nordholz of Full Media judged the finalists this year.
Felts said the city has promoted a “You’re the Reason” campaign since 2008 to let employees know they are instrumental in helping to make Gainesville a great place to live. Every year in the fall, an employee nominated by peers receives a gift and paid day off for “going above and beyond.”