Churchill Downs Racetrack honored members of its 2017 class of Churchill Downs Winner’s Circle Governor’s Scholars during a celebration of the program at the home of Kentucky Derby on Friday, Nov. 17.

A total of 31 current high school seniors from Jefferson County and surrounding counties participated during the summer between their junior and senior years in the program that is part of the overall Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program (“KGSP”). Twenty-seven of those students were joined at the track on Friday by parents, guardians and school representatives for a reception and lunch in the Jockey Club Suites. Small groups of the members of the 2017 Winner’s Circle Governor’s Scholars class were recognized in the track’s winner’s circle following each of the day’s first six races.

Churchill Downs also presented a check for $15,000 to Dr. Aris Cedeno, KGSP’s executive director and academic dean.

Participation of the members of the 2017 Class of Churchill Downs Winner’s Circle Governor’s Scholars in the overall Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program was funded in part by Churchill Downs. The pubic-private Winner’s Circle partnership, now in its 17th year, has now funded the participation of a total of 518 students in the overall Governor’s Scholars Program. The Winner’s Circle program is unique in that it focuses on students who have overcome personal challenges or other adversity to become high achievers in both their personal lives and the classroom.

The Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program was created in 1983 with a mission to enhance Kentucky’s next generation of civic and economic leaders. A partnership that includes the office of the Governor, the Kentucky State Legislature and private enterprise from throughout the Commonwealth funds the program, which selected students to attend without charge.

The Churchill Downs Winner’s Circle Governor’s Scholars honored Friday joined more than 1,000 students who participated in the overall program during five-week sessions conducted during the summer at one of three college campuses: Morehead State University, Murray State University and Northern Kentucky University.

Class of 2016 member Nyah Elizabeth Mattison, a senior at duPont Manual High School, spoke for Winner’s Circle Class of 2016 at the reception.

"As the daughter of an immigrant and as an African American student, being a Winner’s Circle Scholar is incredibly meaningful to me and incredibly humbling,” Mattison said. “All of us here have overcome challenges that have tested our limits, and being a Winner’s Circle Scholar is a recognition of that hard work.

“As Governor’s Scholars we have all learned the importance of community, in every form it takes. GSP has helped me to build a network of fellow scholars that I feel comfortable and trusting in reaching out to.”

Participants in Churchill Downs Winner’s Circle Governor’s Scholars Program include one student from each of the Kentucky House and Senate districts in Jefferson County. Some of those districts include portions of bordering Kentucky counties.

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