Sophisticated Gents Of Florida, The African American Club Of The Villages Provide $19,000 In Scholarships To Local High School Students
BY LOUIS C. WARD
Photo Credit: Reggie Hayes
THE VILLAGES - Ana Hernandez was the light of Pilo’s eyes, her proud Dad. She was the first in the family to graduate from high school, and will be the first in the family to attend college in the fall of 2017.
Dorien Gray, a Lake Weir High School graduate, didn’t expect to receive the $1000.00 scholarship, but he’s very grateful and will use it to pay for books and other incidentals that occur when attending college.
Ana and Dorien are two of 19 high school graduate students, who received $1000 scholarships at the “Education-The Foundation to Success”, the Fourth Annual Scholarship Recipient Luncheon Saturday, June 3rd, 2017 at the Savannah Recreation Center in The Villages, Florida.
Sponsored by the Sophisticated Gents of Florida (SGF)and The African American Club of The Villages (TAAC), between the two charitable and civic organizations, a total of $19,000 were distributed in college scholarships for youths who graduated from one of these four schools: Leesburg High School, The Villages High School, Lake Weir High School, Wildwood Middle High School.
Kaitza Gray, Dorien’s Mom, said she was very happy to see her oldest son receive the scholarship, and knows that he will attend Central Florida Community College.
With intentions of attending Lake Sumter State College (LSSC) to studying nursing in the fall, Ana said she wanted her graduation and scholarship to set an example for her younger brother, inspiring him to believe that he can become anything he wants.
Slater Smith, who will be attending Yale University to study physics and linguistics, and thanks his grandmother Phyllis Green for raising him, and contributing to getting him to where he is today, said “I’m going to do my four years of college and see where my four years take me.”
Commenting on their Fourth Annual Recipient Luncheon, Vernon Haley, President of the Sophisticated Gents of Florida and Chairmen of its Scholarship Committee, said “It was great and it came off pretty nicely, and all the students (scholarship recipients) were there.
A major change in the program this year was “we let the students take the lead in telling the highlights of what their goals are, and where they are going. We allowed the students to talk about themselves, as oppose to last year when SGF or TAAC members did it. And it worked out very well,” SGF President Haley stated.
It was an outstanding day, according to Book Booker, President of The African American Club of The Villages. “We were able to provide some financial assistance to 19 students, who many are the first to graduate high school and attend college in their families.”
Most of the donors are retirees, and it showed that we are not too busy to help our community, emphasized President Booker. The students were outstanding and extremely articulate in expressing why the scholarships were important, how they were going to use the money, and what their goals were, President Booker continued.
President Booker also felt the scholarship recipients showed how “the school system is working in Florida, and that there is a tight partnership between SGF and TAAC, working together for our community.”
The annual scholarship program could not exist without the sponsors who go beyond the call to bring the money in. One sponsor, Central Florida Health, a non-profit organization operating in Leesburg and The Villages Regional Hospitals, was represented by Frank Faust, Director of Marketing, who said, “We donated because it is part of our mission to support the health and wealth of youth who demonstrated a commitment to education and excellence, and we want to play a small part in their going to achieve their education and pursue their dreams.”
SGF is an organization of 100 retired professional men “who come together for intellectual, spiritual and emotional fellowship, and support a number of charitable organizations.
With approximately 250 members, TAAC promotes goodwill and friendship, plan and hold social, educational, and cultural activities, do good deeds and give back to the community.
Scholarship recipients were Darielle Bain, Terrance Bivins, Renee Davis, Kiara Hamilton, Leila Wallace (Lake Weir High School); Yinka Nachelle Ademosu, Dasnell Hernandez-Cabrial, Czenobia Christian, Raheim Grant, Ana Hernandez (Leesburg High School); Byrell Bautista, Jonathan Coffman, Autumn Soto (The Villages High School); Akida Holloway, Jr., Raven Muse, Slater Smith (Wildwood Middle Senior High School).
Some sponsors were Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence Parker, Foursome Gone Wild, Dr. Claudia Thomas, Charlene McNee, Central Florida Health.
“Believe in yourself, but trust in God and give back and pay it forward” were Vera Johnson’s closing remarks. Hopefully, the scholarship recipients will remember those very important words and act on them.