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Cape Coral Mayors Scholarship recipients feted

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jun 4, 2021

The 10 Cape Coral Mayors Scholarship recipients for the Class of 2021 gather during an awards celebration Thursday at the Yacht Club. Each was awarded a four-year scholarship of $4,000.

Ten high school seniors from Cape Coral were awarded scholarships Thursday at the 39th annual Scholarship Awards Celebration, receiving $1,000 per year for four years so they can pursue their dreams in whatever field they choose.

For the second year, there were fewer scholarships — 26 one-year awards were presented in 2019, for example – but, with the cost of education, they were larger.

“We changed it to make it a recurring amount each year. We also partnered with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to handle the application process and the vetting,” said Joanne Hayden, president of the Cape Coral Mayors Scholarship Fund, which was founded in 1982. “With the new format, we had to scale back a little. Hopefully we can expand that next year.”

As for the dinner, a buffet was replaced by hors d’oeuvres, individually boxed snack trays and a dessert plate as a way to prevent the possible spread of COVID.

The event at the Cape Coral Yacht Club also recognized the 2020 scholarship winners who could not attend a dinner last year due to the pandemic. Of the eight winners, four — Amanda Benitez, Sage Calvao, Maxym Fairall, and Liz Gonzalez Herrera — attended and received their certificates in person.

Owen Foster-Hickey of Cape Coral High School, recipient of the Joe Coviello Memorial Scholarship, gives a speech at the 39th annual Cape Coral Mayors Scholarship Fund Awards Celebration on Thursday at the Yacht Club.

Mayor John Gunter read a proclamation in honor of the scholarship program and a new scholarship, in memory of Mayor Joe Coviello Scholarship, who died in office in January, was awarded. Coviello was a strong supporter of the program.

The first-time recipient of the memorial scholarship was Owen Foster-Hickey of Cape Coral High School.

“It’s an honor to be a recipient, especially with the mayor’s unfortunate passing. But all of us are trying very hard on a daily basis and we do as much as we can,” said Foster-Hickey, who lost both his parents before coming to Cape Coral and transforming his life by giving to others, including starting a business so that all Cape Coral High School seniors could afford senior pictures.

Mayors Scholarship recipients included Shane Spotz, Paulina Huntington and Victoria Mercado-Lues of Cape Coral High School; Halie Hornsby and Jordan Lindsey of North Fort Myers High School; Miranda Figueroa of Oasis, Derrick Purdy of Mariner, Shontae Saddler of Riverdale and Payton Ziegler of Canterbury.

Many have overcome great adversity, perhaps more so than in previous years. Lindsey lost his hearing at age 2; Hornsby watched as many of her friends and family struggled with disease; while another, Huntington, has a family member with bipolar disorder. Some have used that as motivation in their career choices.

Former Cape Coral Mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz hands Payton Ziegler her scholarship at the 39th annual Cape Coral Mayors Scholarship Fund Awards Celebration on Thursday at the Yacht Club.

“I’m going into nursing because I was inspired by one of my friends who battled brain cancer at age 8. I watched her survive it and it inspired me,” Hornsby said, who will attend Florida State University. “I’m excited for the opportunities it will help me achieve.”

The event concluded with speeches from Foster-Hickey and Zeigler, who said it was important to recognize the city, as she has worked with two mayors as member of the Youth Council.

“It means so such to be nominated by the board that works under the mayor. Being a senior and applying to collages, I know how important it is to learn how to fund the college experience,” said Zeigler, who was the first baby born in Cape Coral in 2003. “They talked about the importance of education for our future and the first step is funding it.”