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Case Farms awards two local students scholarships
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J. Leroy Cook Memorial Scholarship

Case Farms awards two local students scholarships

Only $3 for 13 weeks
Onyx Velez.jpg

Onyx Velez is one of two local students to be awarded Case Farms' annual J. Leroy Cook Memorial Scholarship. Velez will head to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. 

Case Farms has awarded scholarships to two local children of Case Farms’ employees through its J. Leroy Cook Memorial Scholarship program.

The recipients are Onyx Velez and Jesus Estrada. Velez is the son of Hector Velez, a corporate recruiter at the Morganton facility. Onyx, a 2020 Freedom High School graduate, will be attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Estrada is the son of Fulvia Estrada, a lab technician at the Morganton facility. Jesus, a 2018 graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, will be attending Rice University and plans to major in social sciences.

“Seeking a career in the arts was a decision I made to follow my passion, but unfortunately there are not a lot of scholarships available for students seeking to follow that path,” Onyx said. “I was extremely grateful to be selected to receive the J. Leroy Cook Memorial Scholarship from Case Farms because it will help me defray the cost of my tuition and make it easier for me to pursue my career as a vocal performer. I truly appreciate the help Case Farms is giving me.”

“I would like to thank God for opening this door and Case Farms for awarding me the J. Leroy Cook Memorial Scholarship because it allows me to further my education without having to fret over financial barriers,” Jesus said. “It means a lot to me that other people see my ambition and want to see me excel and help make the world a better place.”

Through the program, awards are made directly to the students’ designated college or university, according to a press release from Case Farms. The scholarship was established in 2006 by Case Farms founder Thomas Shelton. The memorial scholarship aims to recognize academic excellence and achievement at school and in the community, and encourage pursuit of a post-secondary education. Case Farms has awarded more than $173,000 in scholarships to more than 60 children of its employees, according to the release.

The selection process consists of an application with general information and a personal profile statement, school transcripts and a non-family reference. Case Farms has an outside committee that reviews all applications and provides a ranking for all applications based on their score. Candidates’ scores are determined based on their profile, character traits, cumulative GPA, a statement of their “end goal”, community involvement and receipt of all required documents, according to Rebekah Escala, assistant account executive with Racepoint Global for Case Farms said.

Both Estrada and Velez earned scores of 100, based on their applications, Escala said.

The scholarship is in honor of former Case Farms employee Leroy Cook, who helped Shelton build Case Farms since 1987 and has been an integral part of the company’s success story. During Cook’s tenure – in which he served as the vice president of operations and general manager of the Morganton and Goldsboro divisions – the company grew from 140 employees to 2,000 employees and production increased from 22 million annual pounds to 530 million annual pounds, according to Escala.

“Year after year, we are continually impressed by the drive and passion these students have not only for their education, but for their communities,” Kevin Phillips, president and chief operating officer at Case Farms said. “We are honored to support these hard-working students and congratulate them on this well-deserved award. We look forward to seeing the many great things that are in store for them.”

In total, Case Farms awarded more than $28,000 this year to eight students throughout the state.

Johnny Casey is a staff writer and can be reached at or 828-432-8907. 

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