Highlands Police Chief Bill Harrell informed the Macon County Board of Education last week that the scholarship program Gilliam's Promise will be available for Franklin students.
"Gilliam’s Promise is an excellent opportunity for our community to promote and reward the positive behavior of our young people," said Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. "I appreciate having this support for the students of Macon County."
The drug-free initiative which allows students to earn money toward a college education was started in Highlands nearly three years ago after Bill and Eleanor Cheney's grandson Gilliam took his own life on Sept. 21, 2009, while battling a drug addiction.
After losing their grandson, the Cheneys wanted to create a positive program in Gilliam's memory that encourage children in Macon County to remain drug free and become involved in positive, character building exercises.
The club, which is geared for students in grades 6-12, promotes leadership, team-building, and positive choices. Students who take part in Gilliam’s Promise can earn scholarship funds for the time they are in the program. Since its inception, it has been offered in Highlands under the name Gilliam's Promise.
Because of funding opportunities and support from the community the program is expanding to Franklin students under the name Gilliam's Hope.
“Mr. Cheney made a commitment to Gilliam’s Promise to be a catalyst of a healthy resource for young people who want to stand strong against the pressures, poisons, and influences of drugs. It’s a wonderful opportunity and we would be remiss if we didn’t seize the opportunity in Franklin.”
Through the program, students are afforded the opportunity to earn $1,000 per year to be placed in an escrow account to be used for college or vocational training expenses upon graduation. Students in the program must remain drug-free, attend the monthly meetings, get no more than three unexcused absences, maintain a C+ average, and complete a set number of volunteer hours each year.
According to Harrell, he didn't anticipate funding to be secured so quickly, but since it has, the program in Franklin initially will be able to begin with 25 rising 7th grade students at Macon Middle School.
"Teachers identified students who showed leadership and other attributes necessary for the program," said Chief Harrell. "To begin, we will use the students recommended by the teachers, but in the coming years, all students will have the opportunity to apply."
Gilliam's Promise works through positive reinforcement to help area youth stay clear of drugs. As an organization, Gilliam's Promise believes that any successful approach to the problem of drugs in young people must incorporate a rewards based system. As such, one of the things they have focused on is providing fun activities to those teenagers who have met the Gilliam's Promise membership criteria. Students are able to participate in organized trips to the beach and other trips such as whitewater rafting.
Find out more information at www.gilliamspromise.org