Two Highlands County high school students have each been selected to receive a $40,000 fellowship through a Leaders 4 Life program offered by Take Stock In Children. Both students were among 12 statewide finalists for the prestigious award.
Lake Placid High School student Lucero “Lucy” Torres and Avon Park High School’s Jovani Hernandez were both surprised with the news of their selection as winners Wednesday, Jan. 8 at the Highlands County School Board offices. On hand for the celebration were family, friends, and key stakeholders.
Torres and Hernandez, described as “highly motivated scholars,” were nominated for the fellowships based upon their demonstration of strong leadership skills, moral character, and academic success. Both students are enrolled in advanced placement and dual enrollment courses at South Florida State College.
Torres is vice president of the National Honor Society and a member of the student government and journalism club at LPHS where she is ranked third in her class.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Torres said at the announcement celebration. “I’m very grateful and amazed by everything that’s happened to me through the Take Stock in Children program. This wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for all of you standing in this room today.”
Torres plans to attend the University of Central Florida and earn her bachelor’s degree in finance.
Hernandez is president of the National Honor Society, the co-captain of Avon Park High’s soccer team, a member of the cross country team, and an active community volunteer. He is ranked second in his class at APHS.
He hopes to attend the University of Florida and major in computer engineering.
Irene Castanon, TSIC coordinator at South Florida State College, said the fellowship provides funds for housing, meals, computers, books, supplies and other college-related expenses in addition to internship opportunities.
“It complements the college scholarship provided by Take Stock in Children,” Castanon said. “We knew that it was going to be very competitive and we were praying for at least one winner; but when Lucero’s and Jovani’s names were announced, we were ecstatic to have received two winners.”
Both Torres and Hernandez were recognized at their respective schools recently when they were announced as being among 12 finalists for the award. They were each presented new Mac Pro laptop computers at that time.
The Leaders 4 Life Fellowship provides students with leadership training and development, as well as funding for college costs. The program enables students to excel in a university environment by giving them the resources that empower them to develop their full potential as “leaders for life.”
The program was created in partnership with the Asofsky Family Foundation, a philanthropist group that provides financial resources, services, and support needed to ensure student success throughout college.
TSIC is a statewide program that provides at-risk children with a mentor and a college scholarship. In return, TSIC scholars sign contracts in which they promise to remain drug-free, to avoid behavior that would get them into trouble with law enforcement, to attend school regularly, and to earn satisfactory grades. Their parents also sign contracts agreeing to provide home environments conducive to education and to participate in their child’s education.
To date, 287 students have graduated from the TSIC program at SFSC. The South Florida State College Foundation serves as the lead agency for the district Take Stock in Children program.