LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- The United States isn't called "the land of opportunity" for nothing. One international student living in the Kansas City metro will attest to that. Her dream to attend college in the U.S. will come to life.
Kateryna Sergyeyeva, 22, was told a camera crew was in her restaurant to record a presentation on workplace safety. Instead, Kate, as she's known to her friends, was presented was the surprise of her life.
On Wednesday morning, the Ukraine native received a $25,000 college scholarship from Chick-Fil-A`s Remarkable Futures program.
Kate got the great news from a large package resembling a sauce packet -- the kind customers might use at a restaurant like Chick-Fil-A. Instead of a condiment, the packet held an iPad, which played a recorded message from Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy.
"Kateryna, I know God is going to do some great things in your life," Cathy's message said, as he officially awarded Sergyeyeva the prize money.
According to Mia Kelley, Kate's host mother, the $25,000 will be more than enough to pay for her final two years of college. Sergyeyeva already holds an associate's degree from Metropolitan Community College - Longview.
"I know there are so many deserving people who can get it," Sergyeyeva told FOX4. "It's such a humble and grateful experience."
Sergyeyeva's home country is five years into a brutal war against its neighbors from Russia. Since that war broke out in Ukraine in 2014, more than 10,000 people have been killed in the violence. Sergyeyeva, who hails from Kiev, that former Soviet Bloc nation's capital city, came to the United States in 2013 as an exchange student. She gained her high school diploma from Lee's Summit High School, as well as a sense of security in a peaceful land.
"The future is stable and we can afford a normal living. That's what I want for me and my future," Sergyeyeva said Wednesday.
Kate's family and the restaurant's kitchen manager, Abram Gonzalez, said keeping this a secret hasn't been easy.
"Pretty hard, being her boyfriend and all," Gonzalez giggled.
Gonzalez, a native of El Paso, Texas, said he's been dating Kate for five months, and he wants to marry his co-worker at Chick-Fil-A, where she's worked for two years while attending school.
Sergyeyeva's host family said she remains in the United States on a work visa issued by the U.S. Department of State.
"Her coming to the states -- her mom has always been very supportive of her coming over. She wanted her to have a better life," Gonzalez said.
"There have been times she was discouraged and didn't think she would have enough money to stay and get her bachelor's degree. This is going to be so helpful," Kelley said.
Sergyeyeva said she`s planning to pursue a business degree at College of the Ozarks, and ironically, she wants to open her own Chick-Fil-A store. She said that`s because she owes this company a great debt of gratitude, and someday, she hopes to be able to help others with similar needs.
Chick-Fil-A is based in Atlanta. Company managers say the company is awarding 13 scholarships this year worth $25,000, not to mention other cash prizes of lesser value. A news release from Chick-Fil-A says 9,200 employees applied to get their share of the money.