Company: Wegmans.

Location: 11 stores in Virginia and Maryland. Headquarters in Rochester, N.Y.

Employees: 6,011 locally; about 44,000 nationwide.

Wegmans is the only place that Heather Gole has ever worked. She rose through the ranks to become the grocery store chain’s human resources manager for Virginia after starting in a cashier job when she was a teenager.

Back then, as a high school student looking at the prospect of putting herself through college, the position offered one key attraction: The chance to apply for the company’s college scholarship program. Part-time workers are eligible to receive $1,500 a year for four years, while full-time workers can get $2,200 a year for four years.

“Being awarded the scholarship was a huge point of pride,” Gole said.

More so than many other types of businesses, Wegmans has a high proportion of young employees. The scholarships provide an opportunity to attract such workers, the company said.

Wegmans awarded 1,686 scholarships for the 2012-2013 school year, the most it has given for a single academic year since the program began in 1984.

The company doesn’t have a yearly quota for how many people can take advantage of this benefit. The award is granted to every applicant who is in good standing as an employee and has achieved a minimum grade point average.

“It goes back to a deep rooted tradition that we believe we can only fulfill our goals if we first meet the needs of our people,” said Peggy Riley, Wegmans’ human resources project manager.

Students can put the money toward a degree in virtually any subject. It can also be applied to any level of study, including associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Adrian Womack, a produce manager at the Wegmans store in Abingdon, Md., used the scholarship to offset the costs of his studies at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.

“I come from the inner city, and it made college more affordable for me,” he said.

And it’s part of the reason he has continued to work for Wegmans after he completed his education.

“It shows that our company genuinely cares about our people,” he said.