The applicants who applied to the John and Deborah Gillis Foundation for Bright Stars Scholarships were so impressive that only 0.02 of a point on the rating scale separated the 10th and 11th place finalists. When Executive Director Robin Shrode contacted John Gillis, he agreed an additional scholarship should be funded for another student, increasing the number of scholarships recipients in 2020 to 11.
The scholarships total $440,000, the largest single educational initiative in Hopkins County. Each of the 11 students will receive $4,000 per semester, renewable for up to eight consecutive semesters, to pay for college from the Gillis Foundation.
The 2020 Bright Stars Scholars and schools they recently graduated from include Eastan Lewis, North Hopkins ISD; Jocelyn Ochoa, Saltillo ISD; Ryan Vance, Sulphur Bluff ISD; Diana Gallegos and Mya Lewis, Como-Pickton Consolidated Independent School District; and Isaac Gutierrez, Grayson McClure, Thomas Owen, twins Allison Thurman and Mattingly Thurman and Zachary Tiemeyer, Sulphur Springs ISD.
Aside from maintaining good grades, the Gillis Foundation asks that the Bright Stars Scholars find ways to give back to the community.
The students, already well accomplished, come from a variety of background, some continue to thrive and give back while overcoming numerous personal challenges.
John Gillis commended the students for putting in the hard work to complete the required work and application process during an extraordinary year.
“I am so proud of everyone for doing so well. Our family is growing,” Mr. Gillis said.
“We have 20 kids now. This is an extraordinary group who are doing extraordinary things,” Shrode said.
Each of the Bright Stars Scholars indicated what they consider their greatest accomplishments and the future goals the scholarship from the Gillis Foundation will help them achieve through postsecondary education.
Allison Thurman, daughter of Did and Logan Thurman, this fall will be attending the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and her career field interest is Optometry. She is interested in going on to Optometry School to become an Optometrist.
She feels her greatest accomplishment so far is being accepted into the University of Texas, her dream school since childhood.
A personal goal she wants to accomplish is to open her own Optometry practice one day and to give back her time and money to help her community.
Diana Gallegos, daughter of Jose M. and Raquel Gallegos, plans to attend the University of Texas—Tyler in the fall to plans to major in Interdisciplinary Studies with a goal of becoming an elementary bilingual teacher.
She considers one of her greatest accomplishments to date being the first person in her family to go to college, being able to cover most of her college costs
Gallegos feels she has accomplished every goal she set for herself during her senior year.
Another goal Gallegos has set for herself is graduating from college and having her own classroom by 2025, while living a positive and healthy life.
Eastan Lewis, son of Brian and Danna Lewis, graduated from North Hopkins High School and will be attending Southern Arkansas University in the fall. He will major in Cyber Criminology and Criminal Justice, and plans to go in to Cyber Forensics upon graduation.
A personal goal is to gain experience in the field of cyber security and “give back to my community by educating the citizens about the importance of being safe with information through the web and electronically.”
He said one of his greatest life accomplishments so far was being a part of the NH golf team that played at the state tournament and also being a recipient of the Bright Stars Scholarship.
Grayson McClure, a Sulphur Springs High School, will be attending the University of Texas at Arlington, where he will seek a Master’s Degree in Education. Grayson wants to eventually teach math at the middle school level.
When asked what his greatest achievements to date were, he listed two things: breaking 2 school basketball records (making the most 3 pointers in a single season and most 3 pointers in a game in school history) and being able to give his testimony to over 300 students about Christ.
Isaac Gutierrez, son of son of Martina Gutierrez and the late Uriel Gutierrez, will continue the family tradition of his older brother by attending Texas A&M University — College Station.
Gutierrez plans to major in Statistics at Texas A&M. As a career, his goal is to be a statistician in some capacity.
He feels one of his greatest accomplishments is maintaining a strong academic record despite difficult and demanding life moments, and getting to attend A&M — College Station.
Gutierrez wants “to help others in my community who are in need in the same way I was helped.”
Jocelyn Ochoa, daughter of Salvador and Maria Ochoa, will be seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, so she is able to help and give back to the community and her family.
She will start her post-secondary journey towards this goal at Paris Jr College in the fall.
When asked her great accomplishments so far she states, “Definitely finally making it to the Regionals in basketball my senior year, after losing to the same team the past three years. I have never felt so proud and happy compared to winning other games! I left the game in a comfortable position and mindset because my main goal throughout high school was finally accomplished. It really shows how one is capable in succeeding as long as you have motivation and determination.”
Mattingly Thurman, daughter of Didi and Logan Thurman, will be attending the University of Texas — Austin this fall and will be majoring in governmental affairs, with a goal of becoming an attorney or working for the government in some capacity.
One of her personal goals is to work in a job where “I can help people in my community and change people’s lives for the better.”
Mattie Thurman was an officer in the Blue Blazes drill team and member of the National Honor Society at SSHS. She also was involved in Hopkins County Teen Leadership and Teen Court.
She finishing high school with a 4.0 GPA while being very busy with all her activities on of her greatest accomplishments so far.
Mya Lewis, daughter of Hersean and Saundra Lewis, plans to attend Texas A&M University — Commerce.
Lewis plays to major in Nursing.
Her greatest personal goal is to graduate from college with her BSN.
She said one of her greatest accomplishments was placing first in FCCLA Advocacy Speaking on the topic of Sex Trafficking. She wants to educate people about the topic, and ultimately, help stop the trafficking.
Ryan Vance, son of John and Cathy Vance, this fall will be attending Texas A&M in College Station, where he will be an Architectural Engineer major.
He plans to graduate with a degree in “what I love doing and start a job that makes me want to go to work every day.” Ultimately, he wants a job that will allow him to provide for his family. “With God’s help and motivation any goal is possible if we just set our mind to it.”
When asked what his greatest accomplishments to date would be, he stated, “I would have to say graduating high school. This hasn’t been the most ideal year but it definitely is going to be one that I will never forget. Through this I have learned that with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, don’t forget the family that you have waiting at home. Always take time to be with them, because we are growing up fast and our time is limited. With that said, live every day like it is your last.”
Thomas Owen, son of Bruce and Lory Owen, is a graduate of Sulphur Springs High School.
He plans to attend Texas Tech in the fall. Owen indicated he is very proud to have been accepted into Texas Tech University, where he will major in accounting.
He hopes one day to be a Certified Public Accountant.
Zachary Tiemeyer, son of Jeff and Amy Tiemeyer, is a recently graduate of Sulphur Spring High School.
Tiemeyer is planning to attend Paris Junior College in the fall.
He later plans to attend Parker University in Dallas to become a Doctor of Chiropractics.
Additional information about the John and Deborah Gillis Foundation and Bright Starts Scholarship Program, including additional accomplishments of the 2020 Bright Stars Scholarship recipients, the 2019 Bright Stars Scholars and scholarship application, can be found on the Gillis Foundation website: http://jdgillisfoundation.org/