Later this summer runners and walkers will gather for the 25th Annual Gatorade/Steelers 5K Race, Fitness Walk and Kids Kickoff Run at Heinz Field on August 31. For some, it's become a tradition, for others a family outing, and for many a serious fitness challenge.
But for students from several North Side high schools, the race means a lot more. It provides an opportunity for them, helps them realize a dream.
The race benefits the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund, named after Art Rooney Sr., the late founder of the Steelers. Each year a $12,000 scholarship is presented to two graduating seniors from Perry High School through the Pittsburgh Promise and one from North Catholic High School. Pittsburgh Promise and North Catholic staffs nominate students who have been accepted to college and are in need of financial aid.
"It was a big help," said former scholarship winner Joe Dukovic, a graduate of Perry High School who attended Penn State where he majored in accounting and had a minor in military science. "I was the first in the family to go to a big college. Winning that scholarship was huge for me. Growing up in Pittsburgh the Steelers are a part of everything and being able to relate to the organization as a high school graduate was pretty special."
Dukovic joined the ROTC program at Penn State, further helping him pay for college. He is currently part of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and is training at Fort Benning in Georgia until November. He understands the importance of being well-rounded, something that aided him in earning his scholarship.
"Education always should be first and extracurricular activities next," said Dukovic. "The more you can be involved in, the better prepared you will be. I would encourage students to get involved in leadership committees in school and things like that. Prepare yourself for the larger role and it will set you up for success in college and whatever you decide to pursue after."
Another former winner, Tennelle Thurman from Perry, used her scholarship to attend the University of Pittsburgh where she majored in industrial engineering, and then went on to earn her MBA at North Carolina.
"I remember at the time being really excited," said Thurman. "I was in high school and had a scholarship from the Steelers. I remember coming down to the field (at a game) and receiving it which was a big deal. I had concerns paying for college. I knew how important scholarships were and to get one from the Steelers was an honor. It helped me achieve my dream, which was to go to college. It helped close that financial gap. It was an opportunity for me to pursue a dream of mine."
This year Thurman decided it was time for her to give something back to those that helped her. She is one of the volunteers at this year's race, doing her part to help other students.
"It's about coming full circle," said Thurman, who works in marketing for Heinz. "I want to give back to those that gave to me. I want to be able to help make that dream possible for other students, keeping the scholarship alive whether that's giving to it financially or contributing to a cause is important to me.
"Now that I am back in the city I am looking forward to being a part of it. It's an amazing feeling to do it. I was in their shoes and to be able to help them achieve their dreams means everything."
Winners of the 2013 Art Rooney Scholarship are Broughton Ganaway and Shiloh Richards from Perry and Bailey Hollihan from North Catholic.
Registration is still open for the 25th Annual Gatorade/Steelers 5K Race, Fitness Walk and Kids Kickoff Run. Safety Ryan Clark and former wide receiver Louis Lipps will serve as the co-chairs for the race. Online registration, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods, is available by clicking on Gatorade/Steelers 5K. Paper applications can be requested by calling (412) 697-7713 or by emailing 5K@steelers.nfl.com.