The Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA) presented the 2016 Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship to deserving John Hersey High School senior, Dejanna Blair, today during a school assembly. Blair received a $1,000 grant to put toward future education.
The CATA established the Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship in 2014 to honor John Hersey High School alumna and long-time NBC Chicago Special Events Director Carol Cooling, who passed away in 2013 due to a battle with cancer. As producers of the Chicago Auto Show, the CATA worked closely with Cooling to produce the Chicago Auto Show live TV special, which won several Emmy Awards. Blair embodies the characteristics for which Cooling was known - someone always willing to volunteer, take on extra responsibilities and hold leadership positions.
"The CATA hopes to inspire students for years to come with the Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship," said CATA Chairman Mike McGrath, Jr. "Cooling was someone who worked tirelessly on behalf of the station and made a positive impact on everyone with whom she came in contact. She would have been thrilled to know her spirit is living on in this manner - honoring students who will continue to interject creativity and positivity into their post-graduate careers."
Hersey High School Assistant Principal John Novak said Blair was heavily involved in her high school's extracurricular activities. She participated in track all four years, was involved in the school's variety show, participated in a dance fusion team and was even a loyal contributor to a student fan section that helped support peers' extracurricular activities and sporting events.
"I put a lot of effort into everything I do, and I feel this scholarship has helped reinforce that," said 2016 Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship recipient Dejanna Blair. "I think it's important for others to understand that skills don't always come naturally to me, and that's why this acknowledgment means the most. I've auditioned for various programs but didn't make the cut, so I kept trying to find other activities that were a better fit and put my mind to succeed at those. This award makes all of that effort worthwhile."
Blair also commented that she always tries to make an effort to say hello and smile to everyone with whom she came in contact in the hallway. "You never know who might be having a bad day, and I just want people to see a warm face and know that I am paying attention to them."
Blair plans to put her scholarship money toward her college education at Illinois State University where she will study mathematics and secondary education, in the hopes of one day returning to John Hersey High School as a math teacher. She commented that her teachers and school administrators made a huge impact on her education and growth, and she desires to pay that forward to students in the future.
"We are very appreciative of what the Chicago Automobile Trade Association is doing to honor Carol Cooling," said John Hersey High School Assistant Principal John Novak. "She left a great legacy that has lived on through this scholarship."
John Hersey High School students will have the chance to apply for the Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship again next year. The CATA will continue to fund the scholarship through 2024.
(Left to right: Chicago Automobile Trade Association President Dave Sloan and 2016 Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship Award Recipient Dejanna Blair)