Superior native Ashley Willis, 19, will receive one of 50 national McDonald's Employee Scholarships for $2,500. The 2017 Superior High School graduate has been working for three years at the Tower Avenue McDonald's, where she is a shift leader.

"I was surprised, but I wasn't surprised because she's a hard worker," said Willis' grandmother, Mariann Ross.

A family connection led Willis to the Superior restaurant. Her parents, Carmen and Steve Willis, had worked there. In fact, it's where they met.

"(Carmen) looked at Steve the second time she saw him and said, 'I'm going to marry him,'" Ross said.

Willis said her general manager was the one who encouraged her to apply for the scholarship.

"This is a big deal," store owner/operator Predrag Dostanic said during a recognition event at the restaurant May 15.

Dostanic operates 15 McDonald's restaurants, including both Superior stores, two in Duluth and locations in Cloquet, Proctor and Moose Lake. According to Cindy Rudrud, human resources and training supervisor, this is the first year an employee from one of Dostanic's restaurants has earned the scholarship. In addition to Willis, one of the employees from Dostanic's store in Cambridge, Minnesota also received one.

In addition to the scholarship, Willis received tuition assistance of $2,500 for the 2018-19 school year from the McDonald's corporation and is applying for the coming year. As a shift leader, she is eligible for up to $3,000 per year.

Willis, an elementary education major, took numerous AP and College in the Schools classes while at SHS, shaving about a year off her college career. She plans to walk across the UWS stage in the spring of 2020 and then complete her student teaching.