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Superintendent surprises Douglass graduate with scholarship

Bilal Chhadh receives the check from Superintendent Manny Caulk (right).

One Frederick Douglass High School student picked up more than his diploma during his school’s drive- through graduation ceremony. After posing for a picture with Principal Lester Diaz, Bilal Chhadh was headed back to his family’s car when Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk stopped him. “Hang on, Bilal. I have something for you,” Caulk said, before revealing a 7-foot scholarship check for $2,500.

“Honestly, it was one of the most surprising moments of my life,” Bilal recalled. “It was so unexpected. Graduation was already different, the Class of 2020 had already given up so much. To have something to fill in that void with joy was kind of amazing.”

When Caulk was named 2019 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year, part of his award included a one-time student scholarship funded by American Fidelity. When he announced the winner during last year’s state of the schools address, Caulk pledged to personally fund an annual scholarship as long as he serves as superintendent in Fayette County Public Schools.

Choosing Bilal was a no-brainer, he said. “This young man was a sophomore when we opened Frederick Douglass High School, and although he had the option to stay at Henry Clay High School, Bilal saw opportunity with a transition to FDHS,” Caulk said. “He jumped at the chance to enroll in the Medical Sciences Academy and Project Lead The Way Biomedical Sciences Magnet Program to provide him a springboard to his career goal of attending medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon.”

As part of those programs, Bilal has taken a heavy course load of college-level and Advanced Placement courses and earned a 4.7 weighted GPA and a 3.9 unweighted GPA. He was chosen as a student ambassador and this past year was the chief of Health Science ambassadors. He also was a leader of the FDHS Pep Club, president of the American Muslim Student Association, and a third-year captain on the boys’ basketball team.

Caulk said he met Bilal first because he was a student ambassador at Douglass, but also enjoyed cheering him on the basketball court.

“Oftentimes you hear people talk about how athletes take what they learn on the field or the court and apply that to other areas of their lives,” Caulk said. “I believe Bilal did the opposite. He took what he does off the court – his commitment to succeed academically, his dedication to serving others, his sense of purpose, his leadership skills – and applied it on the court.”

Bilal will attend the University of Kentucky this fall on a William C. Parker Scholarship and major in neuroscience on a pre-med track.

“This scholarship from Superintendent Caulk will certainly help a lot, but it means a lot more than just the monetary value,” Bilal said. “Receiving it from someone as courageous and hard-working as Superintendent Caulk is very humbling for me and has changed the way I view my impact on the community. It encourages me to do well in my future so I can follow his example.”



Lisa Deffendall, district spokeswoman
(859) 699-1441