SEBRING — The academic achievement of the School Board of Highlands County’s Class of 2014 was celebrated Saturday evening at the 51st annual Scholarship Recognition Inc. event.
A total of 240 students from the district’s three high schools, who earned a 3.4 grade point average or higher, received “keys” marking their achievement and 107 scholarships were awarded totaling $26,750.
The featured speaker was 1972 Lake Placid High graduate Lonnie Wells who is the president and CEO of Wells and Associates Insurance Agency.
“Exceptionalism is what this night is all about and you have proven yourselves exceptional by attaining the distinction of being the best of the best academically,” he said. “At a time when the word exceptional has come under critique and criticism, it thrills me to see this large group of people here tonight to recognize you as exceptional.
“Soon it will your turn to step up to the stage of leadership of this great country called the United States of America.”
Lake Placid High Principal Toni Stivender said she was proud of the students from all three high schools and the Career Academy at South Florida State College.
Sebring High Principal Anne Lindsay said the students put in many hours of hard work and overcame many obstacles.
“Sometimes when you hit that high school level we lose focus, but not this group,” she said. “You stayed focused; you have goals; you accomplished them and you should be extremely proud of what you have accomplished this year and over the past several years.”
Avon Park High Principal Tealy Williams noted it was a great accomplishment for Scholarship Recognition Inc. to start with less than $2,700 in 1963 and then give out nearly $27,000 in scholarships that night.
After recognizing the top seniors from each high school, the Andrew Miracle Achievement Award was presented to a student from each high school who had shown overall achievement and leadership throughout their educational years.
The recipients of the award were Ashton Abela of Lake Placid High, Juvencio Cendejas of Avon Park High and Jared Lang and Scout Royce of Sebring High.
The Superintendent Turn Around Scholarship award was presented to a student from each high school who had shown the most improvement and/or overcame a hardship within their educational years.
The recipients of the award were Brittany Egan of Avon Park High, Isabella Perez of Sebring High School and Sadie Watts of Lake Placid High School.
After the event, Avon Park High seniors Jovani Hernandez and Joshua Gaidos, both sporting long-sleeved red shirts, black slacks and ties, congratulated each other and spoke of their future plans.
Hernandez said he will study computer engineering at the University of Florida. He hopes to work for a major technology company such as Microsoft or Google.
In high school, Hernandez said he enjoyed being in clubs and athletics. He was in the National Honor Society and played in the midfield on the soccer team.
Gaidos will be attending Florida Atlantic University and will study computer engineering.
He will be going into the Air Force ROTC program at the university.
At Sebring High he was a squadron commanding officer in the Junior ROTC program, and like Hernandez, he was also in the National Honor Society.
In sports he participated in swimming, diving and track and field.