Graduating seniors Justine Nurse-McLeod from McEachern High School, Jiby Yohannan from South Cobb High School and Megan Zhang from Pebblebrook High School were each awarded the scholarship.
"There's a sense of community that's perpetuated with eight years of this, I think, because it's the community who thought of it, who funded it, who works hard to keep it maintained, so I think that's a real tribute to all of us," Gray said of the scholarship fund in her name. "And it overwhelms me. It does touch my heart every time it happens, and I'm certainly not deserving, but I love it."
Nurse-McLeod, 17, has a 4.25 grade point average and is sixth in her senior class of 489 at McEachern. She is the president of the National Honor Society, class representative in the student government association, a section leader in the school's choir and has a part time job at Kroger. Nurse-McLeod said she wants to become a pediatric oncologist and plans to attend either Emory University or Vanderbilt University.
"I know at my school there were so many people that applied that were just like me - with a high GPA and involved in a lot of things," Nurse-McLeod said. "And that they picked me it's just a huge honor. It's going to help a lot."
Nurse-McLeod said she plans to come back to south Cobb after college to serve her community "like Miss Betty Gray."
Yohannan, 17, has a 4.59 GPA and is first in his class at South Cobb. He is the vice president of the school's science club and volunteers at WellStar Cobb Hospital. Yohannan plans to attend Georgia Tech next year, where he plans to major in biochemistry.
The South Cobb senior said once he earns his M.D. and PhD he will come back to south Cobb and begin a health-science program to teach children about anatomy and physiology, and hopefully inspire them to pursue a career in medicine.
"It's an honor to have been awarded," Yohannan said. "It means that I can pursue my interests in medicine and in teaching, and I can live out the legacy that Betty Gray left."
The final scholarship recipient, Zhang, was not at the luncheon on Monday because she was performing at the Georgia Music Educators Large Group Performance. Her father, Jack Zhang, received the scholarship award for her, saying that his daughter's hard work paid off.
Megan Zhang has a 4.13 GPA and is fifth out of a class of 457 at Pebblebrook. She hopes to become a performance singer and a music educator. She plans to attend Florida State, Georgia State, University of Miami or Southern Methodist University next year.
"In her essay, Megan states that the universal language is music," Alfreda Williams, principal of Bryant Intermediate said in announcing Zhang as an award winner. "And I hope to let others understand the magic that music can bring strangers together."
Betty Gray Scholarship Committee awards scholarships of $1,500 each to a senior at a south Cobb high school such as McEachern, Pebblebrook, South Cobb and the Performance Learning Center. Students who qualify must possess a 3.0 GPA, have recommendations from their principal and teachers, and be involved in their community, said Barbara Hickey, who is in charge of the luncheon. Hickey said the scholarship event is a branch of Foundation 2000, a nonprofit South Cobb education-promoting group that is chaired by Wallace Coopwood.
Prior to the announcement of the scholarship recipients, Gray said that the continuance of the scholarship means that the community is dedicated to helping children in south Cobb pay for their college education.
"I bless each one of you to be here because this community is richer because you're here and you're testifying today, in a church in Cobb County, Georgia, eight years from the first one that kids are important," Gray said. "If they're important - solutions to their problems are ours to find out and to execute and to pay for as this Foundation 2000 has."
Students from schools throughout south Cobb provided entertainment for the luncheon, including a string quartet from Garrett Middle School, the chorus at Harmony Leland Elementary School and Pebblebrook Jazz Ambassadors. Table decorations were created by students from Mableton and Sky View elementaries and Floyd Middle School.
Cobb Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Connell was the event's keynote speaker.