Fisher, Lockhart earn ‘Golden’ scholarships

Golden LEAF Foundation announces two $12,000 education packages

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — It was Dan Gerlach’s eighth high school visit of the day. To Nile Fisher and Juwan Lockhart, it was the most important.

The two college-bound seniors at Richmond Senior High School accepted late Friday afternoon scholarships valued at $3,000 each. Each scholarship is renewable up to three more years, which means Gerlach, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, committed $24,000 to a future pediatrician and future graphics designer, business owner, musician and teacher.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Nile Fisher, left, and Juwan Lockhart, second from right, stand with Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, and Richmond Senior High School Principal Keith McKenzie.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Nile Fisher, left, and Juwan Lockhart, second from right, stand with Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, and Richmond Senior High School Principal Keith McKenzie.

The goal, Gerlach said, is to have both return to rural North Carolina and make their hometowns of Rockingham and Hamlet, respectively, better places to live, work and play for future generations. To Lockhart, that means his two sisters, ages 11 and 7.

“There’s nothing for them to do,” said Rona Lockhart, Juwan’s mother.

Gerlach explained that the Golden LEAF — Long-term Economic Advancement Foundation — seeks to empower young people to learn necessary skills and return to impoverished areas that were formally tobacco-dependent. The scholarships — more than $32 million invested in nearly 14,000 students in the last 16 years — began in 1999 as tobacco companies began to be sued by government agencies. Part of the settlement required tobacco companies to invest in the youth of today and tomorrow.

Fisher and Lockhart jumped at the opportunity. They each completed online applications through the College Foundation of North Carolina, which included three short essays. They were among more than 700 applicants, Gerlach said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Juwan Lockhart, center, stands in front of the Raider logo with his parents, Rona and Lawrence Lockhart.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Juwan Lockhart, center, stands in front of the Raider logo with his parents, Rona and Lawrence Lockhart.

“It’s getting to be a tougher competition every year,” he said.

Fisher, 18, has been accepted to UNC at Chapel Hill and plans to major in biology. She aspires to become a pediatrician. The former all-Southeastern Conference volleyball and soccer play and National Honors Society student volunteers at Washington Street and Monroe Avenue elementary schools while holding down a part-time job at Burger King in Hamlet.

Fisher is currently ranked 11th in a class of 456 students with a weighted grade point average of 4.56.

Gerlach asked why she wanted to attend UNC at Chapel Hill. The answer was simple. Fisher said she visited the campus and “I fell in love.”

Lockhart, 18, is youth president of the local NAACP and is active in FBLA. A member of the Richmond Senior High School Choir, he also works part-time designing flyers for area churches. Lockhart said he’s not 100 percent sure about becoming a graphics designer.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Nile Fisher and her aunt, Nikki Wells - who is also a guidance counselor at Richmond Senior High School.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Nile Fisher and her aunt, Nikki Wells – who is also a guidance counselor at Richmond Senior High School.

“I just want dot do something with music,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart said that depends in part on what programs UNC-Pembroke offers. Gerlach didn’t express concern about Lockhart’s lack of focus.

“You’ve got a little time to figure that out,” Gerlach said.

Both students expressed appreciation for the financial assistance. The cost of attending UNC at Chapel Hill for Fisher is estimated at $24,120 per year — or $96,480 over four years. Then there’s medical school. For Lockhart, attending UNC-Pembroke is estimated to cost $14,992.30 per year, or $59,969.20 for four years.

With the scholarship, both students have an inside track to be accepted into the Center for Creative Leadership Program in Greensboro. One weekend in January and another in September after college begins, Gerlach said students from across the state come together to learn how to become community and business leaders.

It’s not mandatory, Gerlach said, but “I encourage you to apply.”

Both students also could be eligible to apply for a paid internship at a business or agency that otherwise couldn’t afford an internship. It pays $10 an hour, Gerlach said, for 220 hours over a single summer.

Filed in: Business, Education, Featured News, Health, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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