Chick-Fil-A is celebrating 50 years of giving out scholarships to its employees. The company as a whole has donated millions of dollars to help 93,000 team members further their education.
The program is called "Chick-fil-A's Futures Initiative," which offers two classes of scholarships to part-time and full-time employees at locations in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada.
They give out two awards: the True Inspiration Scholarship, where employees who earn the award will receive $25,000 toward their college education. The second is called the Leadership Scholarship worth $1,000 to $2,500.
Locally, owner and operator of the Sienna Crossing location Tony Levine has given the scholarship to several of his employees. Levine said he is grateful to have opportunities like this.
Levine is the former football coach at the University of Houston. He said it was a transition going from coaching a university program to owning and managing a restaurant.
"So, I coached football as a career for almost 25 years and I absolutely loved almost every minute of it," Levine said. "I do love the game of football, but I think I’m as much or even more passionate about trying to give back and trying to pour into people’s lives."
Levine said that he realized that even though he loved to coach, it wasn’t who he was.
"While I absolutely loved coaching football, it wasn't my identity, it wasn't who I am, I have always saw myself being a husband and a father and that being my identity," Levine said.
After coaching Levine said that he took a look at his life and wanted to figure out what he would do next.
"When I had the opportunity to kind of think about what I wanted the next chapter of my life to look like," Levine said. "We wanted to stay in Houston and make this home."
Levine said that after having many ideas, he realized that he liked to develop and build teams, so he went to Chick-fil-A to see options for buying and owning a restaurant.
"The transition for me has almost been seamless, the last game I coached, was at Purdue in a bowl game in January of 2018 and five months later I was handing out barbeque sauce," Levine said. "I have enjoyed every minute of it."
Now Levine is focused on his team members and wants to make the scholarships special for them.
"It is such a big deal for members of our team to get $2,500 college scholarships that we wanted to make it as memorable and special for them as we could," Levine said.
The former coach bought and opened the location in May of 2018, and started giving out scholarships in 2019 by celebrating in big ways.
From tricking his employees with a corporate video, to creating a flashmob, to setting up elaborate schemes for each member who won the scholarship, Levine does it all.
"To make it memorable and fun and exciting and special in a way that surprises and honor them, we’ve gone as early as eight months out for the surprise," Levine said.
Levine said he loves teaching and building others up so they can be the best versions of themselves.
"I love development and teaching and watching people grow and achieve and have success," Levine said.
Levine said this is the first year that some employees have had the scholarship for all four years.
"We actually have two (employees) that just received the scholarship this year for the fourth consecutive year," Levine said. "So they would have earned a total of $10,000."
Levine said that he believes managing and coaching go hand-in-hand in creating a safe and efficient work environment.
"When I went through the process, I continually told the selection committee from Chick-fil-A corporate that I thought were so many parallels between coaching a team and running a Chick-fil-A restaurant," Levine said. "Now that I’ve been doing it for five years, it was absolutely the truth."
Some of the requirements are having a 2.5 or higher GPA, must be a graduate or undergraduate, and doing community service or making a positive impact in some way.
In 2022 the franchise gave 13 members the True Inspiration Scholarship and 12,699 other employees received the Leadership Scholarship.