Weeks after Officer Kennis Croom was killed in the line of duty as a police officer in Meridian, Mississippi, his legacy is continuing to live through a memorial scholarship awarded for the first time to a Central High School graduate Thursday.

Michael "Zae" Richardson, a 2022 graduate of Central High School received a $7,500 scholarship in memory of Croom through the nonprofit The Croom Foundation in a Thursday morning ceremony with his family, teachers and mentors at his side.

Richardson, who will attend Maryville College in Maryville, TN on a $22,000 academic scholarship will play football there and said he always dreamed of going to college but at times, had doubts.

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"There came a time where I wasn't sleeping at night, thinking about how was I gonna be able to get to college," Richardson said.

He said his football coach put him into contact with Kevin Croom, the executive director of the foundation and brother to Kennis, who assured him he would have everything he needed.

"I talked to Kevin and he told me he was going to get me to college for free I just had to be patient and I was going to get there," Richardson said.

Croom said he is proud of Richardson, whom he said Kennis was a fan of from watching him play at Central and through his involvement with the program. Croom said he could not have picked a more deserving student to benefit from the scholarship.

"Kennis would say kids just either need structure or he was a firm believer that they just need the right mentor so because of his legacy, we're able to now carry on and make sure these young men and young women that want that structure, if they follow the process, it'll lead to a lot of them being first generation college students," Croom said. "Mike came through the program and he trusted the process and the outcome was a guaranteed full-ride scholarship to college."

Dr. Teresha Jones, principal of Central High School, said she is proud of Michael for representing Central High School.

"He is an excellent representation of Central High School; a great student that comes from a humble background that shows if you put in the work, accept the resources that are provided and if you really want it, you can have what you want to have and you can really do well," Jones said.

Richardson's mother, Ashely Lewis, sat front row and cheered her son on. She said she is proud of him and thanks the foundation for their support to her son.

"I'm blessed that the Croom Foundation stepped in and helped him and guided him when I couldn't be there," Lewis said. "I'm just so glad that he's going to be able to impact his brothers and sisters other children to not go down the wrong path."

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