JAMES ISLAND — When he turned 15, Zachary Redick jumped at the chance to work at Chick-fil-A.
At the time, he wanted to earn money to help out with his family. The restaurant at 848 Folly Road has since grown to be a stable force in his life, as he cared for his mother while she was battling cancer. Now 21, Redick still works for the chain, which awarded him a $25,000 True Inspiration Scholarship in March.
The national scholarship means everything to Redick, who has spent much of the past 5½ years juggling school, work and caring for his mother, who died of her illness in April 2020.
"This means everything to me," Redick said about the scholarship. "Going into my senior year of college, I have no real parental guidance. This scholarship takes away all my worries when it comes to my schooling and education."
Redick is one of 12 Chick-fil-A employees across the country to receive the scholarship. The company looks for team members who show financial need, academic achievement and community involvement.
The restaurant also offers a smaller Leadership Scholarship worth $2,500, which 7,480 team members received in 2021. Of those 7,480 employees, 447 work in South Carolina. The restaurant has awarded that scholarship to Redick for the past three years in a row.
A graduate of James Island Charter High School, Redick is now a junior at Coastal Carolina University. When he's on breaks from school, he works at the Chick-fil-A. While it hasn't been easy trying to find a balance between all of his responsibilities, Redick said that he has stayed motivated knowing that it was all going to pay off in the end.
"It was definitely a difficult situation to be handling care of my mom while she's battling cancer, working and doing school work on top of all of that," he said. "However, I just knew that I was working toward my future and that that's what my mom wanted for me. So I just kept my mind straight to make sure I was productive enough to handle everything."
Jason Williams, Redick's boss and operator of the James Island restaurant, said Redick's commitment to his goals shows when he's working.
"Myself and the leaders knew the struggles he was going through," Williams said. "But it never really showed in his work. He always performed on the highest standards."
Williams added that Redick has been a mentor for other team members, training them and showing the ropes of the job. Williams said it only makes sense that the restaurant chain give back to employees like Redick.
"We can't run a business without our team members," he said. "Leadership development is a big part of our success."
Redick plans to graduate next year with a degree in business administration from Coastal Carolina. He will then go on to earn his master's degree in health administration. Ultimately, he hopes to work in a hospital as management or as an administrator.
While he finishes up his degree, Redick plans to continue working at the Chick-fil-A during school breaks and whenever he can. It may not seem like a job serving chicken sandwiches will correlate to a career as a hospital administrator, but Redick said the skills he's learned at his part-time job will be used throughout his future.
"Working there early and starting at 15 matured me into a young adult very fast," he said. "Just throughout my time at Chick-fil-A, I've been impacted with great leadership skills and overall life skills that have benefited me."