A life changing race

Throughout the years the Gatorade/Steelers 5K Race, Fitness Walk and Kids' Kickoff Run has been an end of summer tradition for those who share a love of fitness and football.

For others, the tradition behind it is far deeper.

The annual race, which was chaired this year by Rocky Bleier, benefits the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund, which was established in the memory of the team's late founder. The scholarship annually provides a grant to a North Catholic High School student and funds the Pittsburgh Promise scholarships for two students graduating from Pittsburgh high schools who are residents of the North Side.

Since its inception, the fund has provided scholarships for 85 students.

This year's recipients are Nathan O'Donnell from North Catholic, who will attend the University of Pittsburgh and major in history, and Melvina Black and Ralphie Bueno from the Rooney Scholars of the Pittsburgh Promise. Black will attend Edinboro and major in pre-vet, while Bueno will Indiana University of Pennsylvania and major in accounting.

"It's a big honor because after my dad (Shawn O'Donnell) passed away, my mom and I weren't sure how we were going to pay for my college," said O'Donnell. "To get a helping hand from the Steelers is really going to help out.

"I want to go to Pitt and study history. My dad was a history teacher. I want to follow in his footsteps. I want to be a professor one day."

He isn't he only one feeling the sense of relief getting the scholarship brings. Black feels the same way, as the scholarship definitely will aid in her college endeavors.

"Without it I wouldn't be able to go to college," said Black. "Neither one of my parents were able to finish high school. This means more money going towards my education and will let me come out of there successful like I want to be. It is allowing me to do what I want to do in life. It makes my parents proud they have a child who is doing what I want.

Take a look at photos of the 31st Annual Gatorade/Steelers 5K Race, Fitness Walk and Kids' Kickoff Run. The proceeds benefit the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund

"It gives the next generation something to look at. I have some nieces and nephews who can now see there is more to life than just sitting on the couch. They know their aunt is about to make a path. We have goals we want to chase and I am going to be the one to get them and I want them to be right behind me."

She isn't the only one who used the scholarship to chase goals. Back in 1999 Amera Gilchrist was one of the Art Rooney Scholarship recipients, a young girl from the North Side who attended Oliver High School and had big dreams.

"I come from a family of five kids," said Gilchrist. "My mom was a stay at home mom. My dad worked. There were limited recourses for us to go to college. When we graduated from high school we were on our own because there were still young kids at home. College is something I wanted to pursue. A chance came for me to apply for the scholarship and I couldn't believe I got it. Being a life-long resident of Pittsburgh and the North Side, it was incredible. And for it to be from the Steelers was amazing."

Gilchrist went to Robert Morris, but after three years was unable to finish her education after the birth of her first child. She never stopped dreaming though. And today, Gilchrist is the Deputy Chief for Pittsburgh's Emergency Medical Services. She is working now to finish her education, while also making sure her three kids are getting a quality education of their own.

"All of my credits when I was in Robert Morris transferred for me," said Gilchrist. "That is helping because I couldn't afford to go back now. I have three kids of my own I am paying tuition for. I don't have to take as many classes to finish my degree because of the scholarship.

"I can't thank the Steelers organization and Rooney family enough. Right now I am finishing my degree, taking a class at a time so I can fiscally be able to do it. But I have so many credits behind me the Steelers paid for and I don't have to take those classes again and can just finish.

"You don't see the value of an education after high school until later down the road. When you go to apply for jobs, you are in a competitive marketplace. The person with the sheepskin behind them, they are going to look for first."

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