Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:21 PM EDTA man from highlands made a promise a few years ago, it was a promise to God.It was born from grief, the heartbreak over losing a grandson.He did it for Gilliam, and today, dozens of young people are learning why it's promise worth keeping.Highlands School in Macon County is a lot like any other school but there's a club here not found anywhere else in North Carolina."If every school had one, we'd be a lot better off.Evan Schmidt is a member, so is Becca Clark, and brothers David and Daniel Long who are home schooled."It's done a ton for our family.""I joined the club my sophomore year."It's club conceived from a promise, Gilliam's Promise. David Long, Gilliam's Promise member, "each student participates with the program, they'll receive a thousand dollars if they meet the criteria."Daniel Long, Gilliam's Promise member, "so hopefully if you start sixth grade to 12th grade, you're getting seven thousand dollars by the end."Money held in escrow to pay for college."If we can get those kids on the right track."Bill and Eleanor Cheney lost they're 27 year old grandson Gilliam four years ago.It came after years of Gilliam battling drug addiction.Bill Cheney, "Person of the Week", "he was out on a ledge on a mountainside here in a hard rain and put a bullet through his head. I had to find him and we finally located his body."In the grip of overwhelming grief they found the healing power of hope in prayer and and a promise, "and we made a promise to God that we would do what we could to make positive reinforcing to young people to reinforce this disease.""Gilliam's Promise. And offering the kids if they'll meet certain standards that we set up that we will give them an education tuition."It includes random drug testing, maintaining a C plus average, limited absences, school and community involvement. "It's just crazy that someone would do this for us."Evan Schmidt, Gilliam's Promise member, "it's really amazing how even though it took a tragedy and it kind of shocked the Cheney's and the community around here. It took someone like Mr. Cheney to turn it into something good."Turning tragedy to triumph for 43 young people this year alone. "Forming this club, having fun, having positive things to do in the community. I am convinced in every human being there is a deep sense of pride in everybody. And the question it's a question of how do you bring that pride out.""I've grown just by knowing him and meeting him.""I think a lot of us became better people and learned to work with others a lot better. And that was something good that came out of it."It's goodness they'll take with them and maybe lead others to a place of peace in their lives. The kind drugs can't deliver."And I think Larry, we owe this to this younger generation.""We're doing it and I'm very proud of these kids."Gilliam's Promise is being offered to students in Franklin beginning next year.With donations and grants, the hope is that chapters will open all over North Carolina and beyond.Click here to learn more about how you can help.Bill Cheney
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