Meet Leia, 2021 REACH Grant recipient and Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship winner.

Behind the Vietnamese saying that inspires KFC team member and Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship Winner, Diane
January 26, 2021

Meet Leia, 2021 REACH Grant recipient and Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship winner.

Leia is a KFC team member with JRN in Harrisburg, IL who has worked for the company since January 2020.

Within the past year, Leia received the gift of a car from a generous alum of Carrier Mills High School, earned six scholarships in total—including the REACH Grant and the Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship—and was surprised with a laptop from JRN to use for school.

Leia Bryant receiving a laptop from JRN as part of her REACH Grant & Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship celebration
Leia Bryant receiving a laptop from JRN as part of her REACH Grant & Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship celebration

“Leia was very surprised. She thought she only won the $2,000 REACH Grant; She didn’t know she had won the Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship also,” says her Area Coach Ramona Robison. “This young lady is amazing… Most positive and bubbly attitude I have seen in a long time.”

None of Leia’s “luck” has come easy or by chance (which you’ll learn more about in the excerpt below from her winning Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship essay); Leia has put in many hours and exceptional effort to make her “luck”. Throughout high school, she juggled

dual-credit courses through Southeastern Community College, extracurriculars (softball, basketball, volleyball and cheerleading) and her job at KFC where she worked up to 24 hours a week—and consistently earned grades that put her at the top of her class.

“I have never looked at hard work as a burden but as a chance to better myself,” Leia said.

Leia will start at Southeastern Illinois College in the fall at a sophomore level. Her goal is to become a teacher, with a possibility of going into special education.

Learn a little more about where Leia’s passion, grit and motivation come from by reading an excerpt from her Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship essay.

Excerpt from Leia’s winning Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship essay

Prompt: Janet L. Kuhn left behind a great legacy of lifelong learning and helping others. What would you like your legacy to be? How do you plan to make that mark on your community?

JRN team member Leia Bryant with her $4,000 REACH Grant check
JRN team member Leia Bryant with her $4,000 REACH Grant check

“To put it bluntly, I grew up poor.

It was hard being a little girl who did not fit in because she couldn’t afford Justice clothing. My mom was not the room mother who always worked the class parties and brought the homemade treats and goody bags. You see, my mom had me at nineteen. So, in many ways, it was not her fault. She was busy working under the table, second shift jobs to support us. Ironically, we have had to grow up together. But as sad as my life was, I had some amazing teachers who made me feel smart and special. I had teachers who made me feel like a princess, even though my clothes and shoes were old as dirt. Sadly, I also had teachers that only made my reality worse and added to my misery.

I learned early on in my childhood, a teacher had the ability to make a big difference in a child’s life. This has given me a drive and a passion to become a teacher. I want to make a positive impact; I want to be their safe zone.

In trying times as we have experienced with the pandemic, I have gained a greater understanding and appreciation of helping others. I push myself harder than anyone else does because I am the one who wants to make a life for myself. Taking care of myself at such a young age has helped me to see the value of hard work. I work two part-time jobs while also going to school, taking online college courses, being a part of the Saline County CEO program, playing softball and still being an active leader in various extracurricular activities. I have also had to adapt to countless school atmospheres through all of the moves I’ve had to encounter throughout my schooling. But that hasn’t stopped me from seizing every opportunity I can. Between both of the high schools I have attended, I have acquired twenty-seven and a half credit hours of college and expect to enter college with thirty-four and a half credit hours. I have managed to do this on top of my many other responsibilities. The path of least resistance isn’t always the path we’re able to take and that’s okay for me. Working hard is what is going to help me to achieve my goals of becoming a passionate and loving teacher.

Statistics show that children born to single, teenage mothers perform poorly in school and most commonly fall into the same curse of generational teen parenthood and poverty. I was not satisfied to sit back and be a statistic. I have worked hard to be a good student, athlete and employee. I am currently ranked number 1 in my class with a perfect 5.0 GPA, a starter on my high school softball team and hold 2 part time jobs, one at a fast-food restaurant and one with a local CPA and attorney. I am also involved in the Saline County CEO program for young entrepreneurs. I have been saving for my future since I began working. Unfortunately, paying for my own necessities, including my car, insurance, cell phone, food, etc. has made saving difficult. But I have never looked at hard work as a burden but as a chance to better myself.

If I am going to be a statistic, I will be the anomaly.”

About the Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship

Janet Kuhn, KFC Director of Training Execution, passed away suddenly in December 2016. In response to her passing, a memorial scholarship fund with the KFC Foundation was created by two generous KFC franchisees and KFCC.

Janet’s 27-year career with the KFC brand began as a restaurant general manager. She worked her way up through the ranks, reaching leadership positions with KFCC in Operations, Restaurant Excellence, and Training. Throughout her career, Janet remained passionate about helping restaurant teams. She served on the KFC Foundation Board of Directors for 8 years. She cared deeply about restaurant employees, her co-workers and KFC’s customers. She was always willing to go out of her way to help someone.

The Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship provides an opportunity for one REACH Grant recipient per year to DOUBLE their grant money. That means the Janet L. Kuhn Scholarship winner would receive between $4,000 to $6,000 total, including their REACH Grant award! To be considered for this award, applicants must complete an additional essay during the REACH Grant application process.

For more information on the REACH Educational Grant Program, click here.


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