Chris Cooley Education Fund offers $25,000 for college
Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley visited Blair during 5A lunch Wednesday to announce the Chris Cooley Education Fund scholarship, a $25,000 college scholarship that will be awarded to eight students at selected local schools. Through this fund, Cooley also made a $5,000 donation to Blair's academic programs and spoke to seniors about the importance of education in both his and their lives.
The college scholarships will provide eight high-potential, low-income high school seniors - one from each school Cooley visits - with $25,000 to put towards higher education, according to a press release from the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation. Applications for the scholarship, which is administered through the D.C. College Success Foundation, will be available in the Career Center.
Cooley's presentation lasted for about a half hour in the auditorium. "Education gave me so many opportunities," Cooley said. "I'm really hoping to help eight students to get a college education and I'm hoping to impact some students and show them that education is really important... and encourage them to work as hard as they can."
The other local schools selected for the program are Fairmont Heights High School, Eastern Senior High School, Springarn Senior High School, Forestville Military Academy, Gar-Field High School, Clarke County High School and Warren County High School. The eight schools were chosen for a variety of reasons, including financial need, diversity, location, graduation rate and test scores, according to the press release.
Principal Darryl Williams speculated that the Redskins chose Blair because of its diversity. "We were probably chosen because of our student background and our population," he said. "But whatever the reason, it's a great opportunity for one of our seniors."
Cooley gave a presentation about the role of education through all stages of his life and the opportunities it has offered him. "Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher," Cooley said, explaining that football never presented itself as a potential career until his junior year at Utah State University. "As far as the NFL goes, I wasn't even thinking about that," he said. "I was going towards my goal of being a teacher."
Cooley was recruited by football scouts after several stellar games in college and was eventually drafted by the Washington Redskins. However, Cooley noted, his education did not end there. "To be good at my job, I have to study," he said. "What I am is a student. Being prompt, being on time, being smart - it all matters even after you have a job." The crowd was surprised to hear about the $1,200 fine for arriving late to Redskins team meetings.
Williams hoped that students came away from Cooley's address understanding the importance of succeeding in high school. "I hope they understand how athletes balance not only the athletic program but also the academics," Williams said. "More importantly, these athletes give back to the community. When you finish school and have a job, that community service is extremely important."
Following the assembly, Cooley spent time taking pictures with Blazer fans and signing shoes, notebooks, t-shirts, jerseys and other paraphernalia. Senior Eliab Thakurdas left the auditorium after 5A clutching a number 47 Redskins jersey bearing Cooley's autograph. "I'm a big fan," Thakurdas, who plans to apply for the scholarship, said. "I think it's pretty awesome because I can't believe he actually came."
Cooley has not yet detailed what makes a student an ideal candidate for the scholarship. "On the one hand, it could go to the outstanding, straight-A student or it could go to the single mother who's pulling C's, but really wants to go to college," Cooley said. "I want the scholarship to go to someone who will make the most of it." Applicants for the scholarship are not required to demonstrate athleticism.
In order to raise funds for the scholarship, Cooley is arranging an art show at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C. in May, and plans to auction off around 20 paintings, some which are his original work. Students may submit their own artwork to the auction as well.
Along with the Chris Cooley Education Fund, Cooley has sponsored initiatives to help children with life-threatening illnesses and women currently battling breast cancer. "This is just another way to help the community," Cooley said. Cooley plans to continue his visits to the remaining high schools in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. through the rest of the week.
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