One Thursday in May, Sammie Fullmer was asked to go to work at her local Chick-fil-A two hours early – something that “isn’t totally abnormal,” she said, so she didn’t think twice about it. But when she took her spot behind the register, that’s when something a bit more out of the ordinary happened.
“A customer said he had been told to give me something, and he handed me an oversized box that looked like a packet of Chick-fil-A sauce,” Sammie explained. “Inside was an iPad, and he had me watch a video on it. This video was a recording of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy telling me that I had won the $25,000 scholarship. It was such a huge surprise and relief that I couldn’t help but cry.”
Celebration ensued, as her coworkers and management brought out a cake and balloons, and she was presented an oversized check. Her family and friends were also in attendance, thanks to the restaurant’s owner.
The $25,000 scholarship was Chick-fil-A’s True Inspiration Scholarship, which is awarded to Chick-fil-A team members based on leadership, academic achievement, community involvement and demonstrated financial need. Sammie was one of only 12 employees nationwide to receive the scholarship this year.
Sammie, who graduated from Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) in January, plans to attend Boise State University this fall. She had been worried about how she was going to juggle her classes with work to help offset the cost of tuition and was searching for college scholarships when she came across an award specifically for Chick-fil-A employees. Her application included a personal statement of goals, a letter of recommendation and a summary of her volunteer work.
“None of us ever believed a girl from little Twin Falls, Idaho, could actually get that kind of recognition,” she said. “It was amazing.”
Combined with other scholarships she has received, Sammie won’t have to take out any student loans, and her freshman year at Boise State will be completely paid for.
“It takes a load off my shoulders,” she told the Times-News. “I can focus more on my schooling than work.”
Sammie’s parents enrolled her at IDVA for kindergarten. An advanced learner, Sammie was reading and doing basic math by the time she was 4 and had taught herself basic algebra principles using toys by the age of 6.
“My parents felt I was too advanced to be able to thrive in a traditional brick and mortar public school – that I would just be held back and not challenged,” she said, adding that she was never bored with the course material at IDVA and that she had to work hard to keep good grades. “IDVA gave me the opportunity to go at my own pace and allowed me to be advanced, rather than trying to make me fit into a classroom box – which is why I started high school math in seventh grade and graduated a semester early with 33 college credits.”
The 33 credits give Sammie a head start on her college classes, but she says IDVA has prepared her for college in less tangible ways, as well.
“The work ethic I gained by having to be self-driven in my school work has been a huge part of making me who I am and preparing me for the future,” she said.
Sammie plans to study computer science with an emphasis in cybersecurity at Boise State, with hopes of one day working for the Department of Defense. While competing on robotics teams for six years, she discovered a passion for programming and realized it was a field she’d like to pursue, but she also had a desire to serve her country.
“I can’t work in any military capacity due to a fracture in my L5 vertebrae, so when I learned about opportunities in cybersecurity in the Department of Defense, I realized that that is a field where I can make my dream of helping my country while doing something I love in programming come true,” she said.