A record number of upcoming graduates from seven Lee County high schools came together Thursday at Palmetto Pines Country Club to receive the rewards for their hard work and dedication to their schoolwork and community.
The Cape Coral Mayor’s Scholarship Fund held its 33rd annual awards banquet to hand out a record 26 scholarships to high school seniors who reside in Cape Coral, and those recipients were made to feel very special.
Jim Burch, president of the scholarship fund which was founded in 1982, said the non-profit received some 60 applicants this year for the $1,500 merit-based scholarships.
“The kids are graded on a matrix based on community service, GPA and community service hours, so it’s based strictly on their achievements and not on need,” Burch said. “The only requirement is that they reside in Cape Coral.”
Burch said the event is made possible by many loyal sponsors and members of the community who attend the program fundraisers, such as the Night at the Theater. Donations tallied at more than $41,000.
Mariner had the most winners with eight. Oasis Charter was close behind with six.
“The resumes on these kids are longer than many of ours. They give so much time and energy into their community and schooling that it’s incredible,” Burch said. “Of all the things that happen in the Cape, this is the one we should remember. These are future leaders of our city.”
The recipients met at City Hall, where they were picked up in three limousines and brought to Palmetto Pines, where family, friends and dignitaries were waiting. They took part in photo sessions before going inside for dinner.
The event featured music from the Ida Baker High School Jazz Ensemble and words from Burch, director William Zacovic and Mayor Marni Sawicki, who discussed the importance of these students to the future of Cape Coral.
“As a community, we need to keep evolving. We need to find ways to bring millenials into the city. Finding places for them to live, work and play will be important,” Sawicki said. “If we don’t continue to lower our median age and increase our commercial tax base, there will be a heavy burden placed on all of us.”
Dave Alexander made the announcements as the scholarships were given out, with the recipients’ sponsors escorting them to the stage.
To all who earned scholarships, it was an honor to be chosen.
“I’m so honored. Thank you to everyone who helped out. It’s been a great experience and I’m so happy to go off into higher education,” said Kimmie Tran, of Cape Coral High School, who will attend South Florida to become a neurologist. “So many kids applied for this. To get the interview and the scholarship is so amazing.”
“Of all the kids in Cape Coral to apply, to receive it is such an honor and I feel proud of myself and my schoolmates,” said Amerie Hickel of Oasis, who hasn’t decided on a school but wants to go into psychology and international business. “We can bring a lot back to Cape Coral and wherever we decide to go.”
Sawicki saw a group of teens that was ready to take on the world, thanks to the hard work of the school system.
“It showcases the caliber of kids our schools are putting out and all the work the teachers do to prepare them,” Sawicki said. “If we don’t start appealing to them and get them to be engaged, then we become stagnant, These events are great, meeting all the people and seeing smiling faces is great.”