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CATA awards scholarship to honor deceased NBC 5 employee

June 17, 2016
The Chicago Automobile Trade Association on June 3 presented the 2016 Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship to a graduating senior at an Arlington Heights high school. Dejanna Blair received a $1,000 grant to put toward future studies.   
The CATA established the Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship in 2014 to honor Carol Cooling, a John Hersey High School alumna and a long-time special events director at NBC 5 Chicago. She succumbed to cancer in 2013. 
As producer of the Chicago Auto Show, the CATA worked closely with Cooling to produce Chicago Auto Show live TV specials, many which won Emmy Awards. Mike McGrath Jr., chairman of the CATA, said Blair embodies the characteristics for which Cooling was known: someone always willing to volunteer, take on extra responsibilities and hold leadership positions.
"The CATA hopes to inspire students for years to come with the Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship," McGrath said. "Carol was someone who worked tirelessly on behalf of the station and made a positive impact on everyone she came in contact with. She would have been thrilled to know her spirit is living on in this manner: honoring students who will continue to interject creativity and positivity into their post-graduate careers."
Hersey High School Assistant Principal John Novak said Blair was heavily involved in her high school’s extracurricular activities. She participated in track all four years, was involved in the school’s variety show, participated in a dance fusion team and even was a loyal contributor to a student fan section that helped support peers’ extracurricular activities and sporting events.
"I put a lot of effort into everything I do, and I feel this scholarship has helped reinforce that," Blair said. "I think it’s important for others to understand that skills don’t always come naturally to me, and that’s why this acknowledgment means the most. I’ve auditioned for various programs but didn’t make the cut, so I kept trying to find other activities that were a better fit and put my mind to succeed at those. 
"This award makes all of that effort worthwhile."
Blair also said she always tried to make an effort to say hello and smile to everyone she encountered in the school hallways. She said, "You never know who might be having a bad day, and I just want people to see a warm face and know that I am paying attention to them."
Blair will study mathematics and secondary education at Illinois State University, in hopes of returning to Hersey High to teach math. She said that her teachers and school administrators made a huge impact on her education and growth, and she wants to pay that forward to future students.
"We are very appreciative of what the CATA is doing to honor Carol Cooling," assistant principal Novak said. "She left a great legacy that has lived on through this scholarship."
The CATA will fund the Spirit of Carol Cooling Scholarship at Hersey through 2024.