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Red Sox Foundation awards scholarships to 13 area seniors

By Staff | Mar 10, 2020

Being on a Major League Baseball field is a pretty cool experience for those who have never had to chance to step onto one, and is an even cooler experience when you’re being honored for your hard work before the start of a game.

Thirteen Lee County students got that opportunity before the Red Sox Spring Training game at Jet Blue Park on Sunday, as they were recipients of $5,000 scholarships from the Red Sox Foundation. This is the fifth consecutive year the foundation has rewarded students in the county the Sox call home prior to the regular season.

The recipients were recognized individually over the PA system and headed out onto the field one by one where they got to meet Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke.

“We are so excited to once again award promising local students who will be this community’s future leaders scholarships to continue their education,” said Brennan Whitley, senior manager Florida business operations for the Boston Red Sox, in a release. “Education remains an area of focus for the Red Sox Foundation. These students were chosen based on academics, community service and overall need.”

Funding for the scholarships is raised from proceeds of the annual “Swings For The Sox” golf tournament held each fall in Southwest Florida. This past year, nearly $90,000 was raised and over the past eight years, the Red Sox Foundation has raised more than $411,000 for local nonprofits and scholarships.

“What a day,” said School District of Lee County Chief Academic Officer Jeff Spiro of the atmosphere at JetBlue Park and being on the field to celebrate Lee County students. “Not that often do we get the opportunity to have our academics really highlighted and students who overcome challenges and adversity in their life to be standing here on the field and to be recognized for their entire school and receive a scholarship that will help them move on and have some generational change so they can achieve their goals. For some students, this is a game-changer for them.”

Spiro said that the relationship between the Boston Red Sox — who have been in Lee County for Spring Training for 27 years — is a vital one not just economically, but for what they do in the region.

“It’s crucial for this community,” Spiro said of the relationship between the county and the Red Sox. “It truly is a partnership. The Red Sox aren’t coming into town and leaving here just for baseball, they’re truly making a difference in our local community.”

The scholarships were open to any Lee County public high school senior in the 13 schools who has “shown a commitment to community service” and are pursuing a two-year or four-year degree at any college or university.

“For some of these kids, probably for most all of them, this is an opportunity for them to help get where they need to go to that next step in their life,” Spiro said.

Winners were selected by the Lee County Red Sox Scholarships Committee, which chose students based on academic performance, community service and eligibility for financial aid.

The students were all smiles as their names were announced and were given a specially inscribed baseball with their names and high school.

“It’s an absolute honor to be recognized as a scholar for the Boston Red Sox,” said Mariner High School senior Javier Orozco. “Honestly, being able to have the chance to further your education by giving a scholarship means a lot.”

Orozco hopes to attend the University of Florida in the fall to study biochemistry and is contemplating a career as a physicians assistant or something in the medical field. He said the scholarship will go a long way in getting the next step of his academic endeavors under way.

“I’ll have a little more money to help with books, classes, just anything I need really for school,” Orozco said. “Without that money I’d be going out for student loans which negatively impacts you.”

Ida Baker senior Jori Pineda is also looking to get into the medical field, and will either be attending UF or the University of Georgia in the fall to study microbiology and cell sciences.

“I’m really excited,” Pineda said. “It’s overwhelming. I’m really proud. Finally my hard work is paying off.”

Being from a single-parent household, Pineda said the scholarship will help her attain her goals — which are to potentially work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or an ER doctor.

“Something in the medical field for sure,” she said.

Students were required to submit an essay describing a significant experience, achievement or risk they have taken and its impact, or discuss an ethical dilemma they have faced, how it was resolved and how it was important to them. They also had to include a personal statement on themselves to give the review team a deeper look into their character.

Island Coast High School senior Ryan Logan will be attending the prestigious United States Military Academy in West Point this fall, and said being able to be on the field and be recognized for his academic achievements is something he’ll keep with him for some time.

“I’m ecstatic about it,” Logan said. “It’s really cool I’m able to come out here and walk on the field. I’ve done a lot of cool things like this, but this is the coolest by far — going out on to an actual field during a MLB game. It’s an awesome experience.”

Logan was nominated by Congressman Francis Rooney and hopes to major in either systems engineering or environmental engineering. He said the scholarship money will help him pay for uniforms.

Cape Coral High School senior Hank Yang, who will be attending one of the best schools in the country for journalism, Northwestern University, said he was proud to be the nominee from his school.

“I’m really excited because I really wanted to get this to represent my school,” Yang said. “I think it’s a really big honor for me to be receiving a scholarship like this today.”

Yang, who works on his school newspaper at Cape High and will pursue journalism in the future, said he is planning on enrolling in federal work study to get by. Thanks to the scholarship, he can now budget his time more effectively to combat his workload.

“Through the scholarship at least for the first couple of years, I think that can be waived and I can solely focus on my studies,” he said.

The full list of scholarship recipients are:

* Hank Yang – Cape Coral High School

* Abigail Plummer – Cypress Lake High School

* Gildardo Miguel – Dunbar High School

* Mayte Arocha – East Lee County High School

* Zoe Ritchotte – Estero High School

* Liza Francois – Fort Myers High School

* Jori Pineda – Ida Baker High School

* Ryan Logan – Island Coast High School

* Zahria Nelson – Lehigh Senior High School

* Javier Orozco – Mariner High School

* Ashley Tobon – North Fort Myers High School

* Paige Curley – Riverdale High School

* Jamie Sukovich – South Fort Myers High School

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj