ASHE COUNTY — Connor Bowers is the winner of the 2015 Norman Cheek Memorial ASU Scholarship. The scholarship is for seniors attending Appalachian State University. It is given to a senior in Ashe, Watauga and Caldwell counties.
The scholarship was established by the family of the late Norman Cheek, who died in 2009. Cheek was very involved with Project Graduation during his life, not only in Ashe County, but in Watauga and Caldwell counties also. From his past experiences, he saw the need for a safe graduation night celebration for teens and their guests. One of his closest friends lost his son on graduation night in a car accident.
This is a $3,000 per year scholarship, renewable for four years, totaling $12,000. The winner, per the family’s request, is announced at Project Graduation at midnight.
Cheek, who had car dealerships in Watauga and Caldwell counties, first started Project Graduation in those counties in 1990. During the 1990’s, he had fundraisers at his car lot and encouraged many businesses to join him in financially supporting the event. He helped to raise large sums of money by donating back to Project Graduation, $100 for each car sold during the month of May back then. For two years, in 2003 and 2004, he raffled a car to people who gave to Project Graduation. In all three counties, he probably helped raise over $100,000 from 1990 until his death in 2009.
Being from Ashe County, Cheek joined forces with the already established Ashe County Project Graduation in 1995. In Ashe County, his support and influence allowed donations to reach the $20,000 range each year.
“Norman always cared very deeply about keeping the kids safe on Graduation night,” Vickie Herman, past chairperson of Project Graduation, said. “He gave very generously of his time and always used his business connections to help us.”
This year, over 96 percent of ACHS seniors signed up to come to Project Graduation. Many great prizes were given away and food, games, a DJ and video games were provided for the seniors and their guests.
“For 23 years, no senior has been in an accident or lost their life,” Herman said. “We appreciate all the help and support we get from the entire Ashe County community and especially from people like the late Norman Cheek.”