SEBRING - Two seniors, one from Avon Park High and one from Lake Placid High, received surprise congratulations from school district and South Florida State College officials Wednesday for winning $40,000 scholarships from the Take Stock in Children's prestigious Leaders 4 Life Fellowship.
Only six such scholarships were awarded statewide for the fellowship, which was created through a partnership with the Asofsky Family Foundation.
The recipients, Luci Torres of Lake Placid High and Jovani Hernandez of Avon Park High, didn't know there was a roomful of people at the district office waiting to offer the good news to them and their parents.
Superintendent Wally Cox and SFCC President Thomas Leitzel offered their congratulations to the students and touted the efforts of the Take Stock In Children mentors, administrators and the students' parents.
Hernandez said Take Stock is a great program that has helped many students.
Torres said she is "so amazed" at how good people have treated her. She thanked her parents and her mentors.
SFSC Board of Trustees Member Kris Rider said mentoring Torres was an experimental "team effort" by L.P. Law that included herself, her husband, Mike Rider, and secretaries Holly Andersen and Gail Ford
Highlands Take Stock in Children Program Coordinator Irene Castanon said, "We were hoping at least one would win, but we wound up getting two and we were absolutely ecstatic to hear that they won."
Torres is vice president of the National Honor Society and a member of the Student Government and Journalism Club.
Hernandez is president of the National Honor Society, the co-captain of Avon Park High's soccer team and a member of the cross country team. He participated in Relay for Life for two years, the Children's Museum for a year and in Key Club.
Torres would like to study business at the University of Central Florida and eventually work for a Fortune 500 company. Hernandez would like to study computer engineering at the University of Florida and hopes to work for a technology company in a major city near his hometown.
The scholarships are awarded based upon demonstration of strong leadership skills, moral character and academic success. The other four scholarship recipients were from Indian River, Okaloosa, Volusia and Pasco counties. The six Leaders 4 Life Fellows will be announced and recognized at a special awards ceremony and reception Feb. 12 in Tallahassee.
The South Florida State College Foundation serves as the lead agency for Highlands County's Take Stock in Children program.
Take Stock in Children's Leaders 4 Life Fellowship Program provides non-tuition-related financial resources, services and support needed to ensure student success throughout college. The fellowship will provide each student with a new Macintosh laptop computer, as well as funds for textbooks and supplies, housing, transportation, food and other college-related expenses.
Take Stock in Children currently serves more than 8,000 deserving needs-based students in grades sixth through 12 annually in the state.