Vinton High School senior receives over $1 million in scholarships

Updated: May. 23, 2018 at 5:50 AM CDT
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VINTON, LA (KPLC) - A high school senior at Vinton received over $1 million in scholarship money.

Jhah Cook, 17, grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia with her mother and father. However, she had to deal with domestic violence in the house, so she eventually moved to Louisiana with her grandmother when she started Kindergarten.

Later, Cook went back home with her mother to continue elementary school and started doing really well academically, but her mother...not so much."Towards middle school, I don't know what she was going through," says Cook, "She became a really bad alcoholic. I remember crying a lot seeing her just completely inebriated and having to carry her to the bathroom."

Then, Cook was sent to her grandmother's for the summer about every other year before that, but this time her mother didn't have the money to bring her back. Also, her 80-year-old grandmother was no longer able to care for her.

Cook kept bouncing around between family members until, finally, she met Ms. Nel Tillman. Tillman, of Vinton, was not related to Cook, but became her temporary guardian.

Cook says, "We survived on a budget of her Social Security and her salary as a bus driver but I was still able to excel with her and I really appreciate her and want to thank her for everything she's done for me."

Tillman helped her achieve her goals. Cook was allowed to join many organizations; eight or nine every single year.

As high school came to a close, she started to look towards college, applying to over 70 schools and scholarships. She was filled with joy when her scholarships had an overwhelming total.

"I got into our most every single one of them," Cook says, "And then, as I was getting acceptance, the scholarship letters were coming right behind them, one after the other, after the other. By the time it was time for me to count up everything it was about a little bit over one million dollars."

With big dreams and such confidence, you wouldn't be able to tell this young girl had to fight her way here. And although her hardship is behind her, Cook says she wants to use it to help others.

She has plans to go to medical school and get her Ph.D. so she can "better [herself] and help other people and heal them."

"I want to inspire someone who might silently be going through the same thing that I went through and people that may not have struggled as much as me. I just want them to know that they can do it and you just have to keep going and persevering. Be tenacious. Make sure you keep your goals in mind."

Cook has plans to go to Mississippi Valley State University then transfer to Princeton for pre-med school and then go on to Columbia for med school.

For now, Cook is enjoying her summer before college like any normal high school grad.

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