QU student receives $25,000 scholarship from Chick-fil-A

Jacklyn Pellegrino, Staff Writer

A Quinnipiac University student and employee at the Wallingford Chick-fil-A received the Chick-fil-A $25,000 True Inspiration Scholarship March 18, in Atlanta, Georgia.

John Shepherd, a junior criminal justice and sociology double major, and 11 other applicants were told they were flying down to Georgia for uniform design. In reality, they went on a tour of the corporate building and then were brought up on stage where they met Mark Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s founder’s grandson. That’s when he told them that they were the $25,000 scholarship winners out of 14,000 applicants.

“(Winning) was funny because during my interview, Todd Langston, who is the owner of the Chick-fil-A over in Wallingford, brought up to me and he said, ‘You know I think you have a great chance of winning that $25,000 scholarship,’” Shepherd said. “I looked at him and I was like, ‘Yeah sure, yeah OK, that’s not going to happen,’ and here we are.”

QU student John Shepherd was one of 12 individuals selected out of 14,000 applicants for this year’s Chick-fil-A True Inspiration Scholarship. (Photo Contributed by Caleb Jones)

According to Chick-fil-A’s website, there are two types of scholarships students can win: the True Inspiration scholarship, where students receive $25,000, and the Leadership Scholarship, where students who work at the restaurant receive $1,000 or $2,500. The scholarship can be used at any college, university, or technical school and is open to full-time and part-time students.

Langston said that the Wallingford Chick-fil-A location has 22 other scholarship winners who received the $2,500 Remarkable Futures Scholarship in 2022. In addition, Chick-fil-A employees have the opportunity to receive up to $3,500 through its tuition assistance program, which is based on the number of hours worked and the student’s GPA.

To apply for a Chick-fil-A scholarship, there is a submission process with questions about the applicant’s skills and background, requires a store operator recommendation letter and has a community service component.

The Wallingford Chick-fil-A owner said that from the day he interviewed Shepherd, he noticed that Shepherd possessed the leadership characteristics that Chick-fil-A looks for.

“Being able to lead himself, I think that’s a big thing that we look for is if you can lead yourself, you can lead others,” Langston said. “But if you can’t lead yourself, you’ll struggle to lead others.”

Langston said he believes people that stay busy are dependable because they know how to manage multiple responsibilities.

“John was one of those that just seemed to be able to multitask and lead with character and lead with putting others first,” Langston said.

Shepherd said that with the scholarship the winners also each got a new MacBook Air, three paid trips and a personal mentor. The winners will also go out in the middle of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta during a football game for an announcement during the upcoming season.

“It’s a lot more than just the money, it’s a whole-year program honestly, which is kind of cool,” Shepherd said.

Langston said he was “elated” when he found out Shepherd won the scholarship. The reason he left a corporate career to become an owner and operator was to be able to help “young folks” overcome challenges and learn key skills that they can use in the future.

“You could see in (Shepherd’s) eyes the surprise, you can see just the relief of knowing that all this debt that he had is almost completely washed away,” Langston said. “It felt to me like I had won something as well. And I think I did—I won the opportunity to see a team member thrive and have an unexpected surprise in their life. That was life-changing.”

At Quinnipiac, Shepherd works alongside Ephemia Nicolakis, a second-year 3+1 public relations and graphic and interactive design double major, on The 1929 Fund at Quinnipiac. He said it’s a “scholarship fund that’s for students by students” which he included in the community service portion of the scholarship application.

Nicolakis said she found out that Shepherd won the scholarship on LinkedIn and she texted him immediately after to congratulate him.

“If you know John you know that he is the best ever, and he is most deserving of this so I was so happy that he got it,” Nicolakis said.

The Wallingford Chick-fil-A location has given out $245,000 in scholarships and tuition assistance since 2017. In the past two years the Wallingford location has had a 100% success rate with students applying for the Remarkable Futures Scholarship.

Langston said he’s proud of Chick-fil-A’s generosity and he’s proud of Shepherd, and he hopes other students will consider working at Chick-fil-A.

“But I think there’s a lot of opportunity for other students at Quinnipiac who may be in a similar situation,” Langston said. “I would love for them to consider Chick-fil-A, because I think that we can help them pay their way through college.”