Western High School senior Asha Reaves poses with a check from JCPS. It will cover her final two years of college. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

Eight Jefferson County Public Schools high school seniors had a great Friday after being surprised with thousands of dollars in college scholarships, funded by district employees.

The JCPS Employee Sponsored Student Scholarship Fund, started last summer to promote a “college-going culture,” provides scholarships to district seniors who will be the first in their family to attend college or overcame obstacles to pursue an education.

District administrators and teachers raised around $50,000 through payroll deductions, most of which went to eight students Friday morning.

Over 100 JCPS students applied for the first batch of scholarships. Eleven finalists interviewed with Superintendent Marty Pollio, and eight winners split the funds based on need, getting anywhere from $1,000 to $11,000. The money could be the difference between going to college and graduating — or not.

Throughout Friday morning, Pollio traveled to their high schools, presenting big checks to unsuspecting students.

In a boisterous cafeteria full of Western High School seniors days from graduation, Pollio presented Asha Reaves with the largest check: $11,000 to cover her last two years working toward a psychology degree at Indiana University Southeast.

Reaves participated in Western’s early college program, meaning she graduated from Jefferson Community and Technical College with an associate degree before graduating from high school. The scholarship is expected to be enough to completely cover the rest of her bachelor’s degree before she hopes to head to Michigan for graduate school.

Thinking the morning’s meeting was just a regular senior meeting, Reaves told reporters she was “very shocked” to win a scholarship.

“I kind of knew when they said he was coming to the school,” she told reporters regarding Pollio’s visit. “They told me to come early today, but I didn’t know it was going to be all of this — I was completely in shock.”

Pollio joked that the funds come with a catch: She and the other seven winners have to invite him to their college graduations. Since she has a two-year head start, she will be first, he said.

After the cheers, after the TV interviews, after all of the students went back to class, Reaves took one last photo with Pollio and her check.

“You better do well,” he said, smiling. “You better graduate.”

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Olivia Krauth
Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy.Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern.Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies.Email Olivia at [email protected]