Oct. 9-20, 2024


Proud Partners and Proud People

Written By: Corali Kimura, Marketing Intern

The Ride of Your Life Scholarship is more than just money. It’s an opportunity for a career, success, and a future. Since 1997, the South Carolina State Fair has awarded over $5 million in scholarships, along with countless opportunities for students across the state to achieve their goals. Their ticketing partners, Circle K and EMC Tickets, have contributed an additional $69,263.59 to scholarship funds since 2021.

The Ride of Your Life Scholarship typically awards $10,000 annually to 50 South Carolina high school seniors. Thanks to a generous $34,263.59 contribution from Circle K and EMC Tickets, this year 3 additional scholarships will be awarded, bringing the total to 53. One of these scholarships will go directly to a Circle K employee or dependent.

My conversations with Lauren Conner (Circle K’s regional director of operations), Steve White (EMC Tickets CEO), and Nancy Smith (S.C. State Fair general manager) revealed a story even more powerful than I initially thought.

I asked Smith where the scholarship money comes from. She explained, “It’s a mix of money mainly from fairgrounds parking, the cookie kitchen and some donations. And now, there’s also additional money because of the generous contribution from our partners, Circle K and EMC Tickets.”

Lauren Conner explained why Circle K chose to partner with the S.C. State Fair. “As a large employer in South Carolina and a leader in our community,” she said, “it’s one of my core principles for us as a Circle K family to give back to the communities we serve.”

After hearing this, I spoke with Nancy Smith and asked her how the partnership came about. Smith told me she remembered meeting with Circle K for lunch to discuss the S.C. State Fair’s impact on the community. The team at Circle K talked it over, and Conner said there was no question the S.C. State Fair was the right choice. Conner stated, “My wonderful team and I made a unanimous decision to support The Ride of Your Life Scholarship program at the highest level by donating all the commission made on S.C. State Fair ticket sales.” She continued, “We are excited to support South Carolina’s youth. It is an absolute pleasure working with Nancy Smith, her team, and Steve White at EMC Tickets to make this happen.”

This decision ultimately impacts the futures of many students, propelling them toward academic success. One such recipient is Chelsea Gourdine, a South Carolina State Fair marketing intern and Class of 2022 graduate. Gourdine applied for the scholarship and secured the internship a year later.

I spoke with her about how the scholarship impacted her academic and career goals. Gourdine’s response resonated: “The scholarship has eased my financial stress, allowing me to enjoy college without worrying about financial barriers. Career-wise, the scholarship provided the chance to pursue a major in Information Science and Visual Communications. This has equipped me with the knowledge to succeed as a marketing intern for the S.C. State Fair.”

The Ride of Your Life Scholarship has impacted many lives like Ms. Gourdine’s and will continue to change lives for years to come.

A new addition to the scholarship program further supports high school seniors who are Circle K employees or dependents. This decision was announced during the check presentation ceremony between EMC Tickets, Circle K, and the S.C. State Fair. Conner elaborated during our conversation: “This year, we are thrilled to dedicate one scholarship to a Circle K employee, using the same application process. Thank you for being a wonderful partner in progress for the State of South Carolina.” The announcement was met with excitement and enthusiasm, demonstrating the positive impact of this partnership.

A special thanks to Conner, White, Smith, and Gourdine for making this blog possible, and to all our partners who contributed to making the S.C. State Fair a statewide treasure! We are proud to partner with Circle K and EMC Tickets for the Ride of Your Life Scholarship and hope it will continue to foster young minds and support future scholars.

Meet Corali
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