Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Foundation award 14 scholarships
One student from each Lee County high school receives $5,000
Immersed in the atmosphere of Jet Blue Park Wednesday morning, 14 recent graduates of Lee County high schools were honored for their efforts and achievements as they prepare for their next journey in life.
The Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Foundation, for the sixth consecutive year, presented the young men and women with $5,000 scholarships, each individual representing a local high school.
The college-bound recipients, custom-made bat courtesy of the foundation in-hand, walked onto the field of Jet Blue Park and made their way to Southwest Florida’s version of the Green Monster. With “Red Sox Scholars” spelled out on the scoreboard and a congratulatory message prominent on the centerfield video board, the recipients stood proud and took in the moment.
“It’s honestly such an honor,” said Mariner High School grad Morgan Russell. “I was initially interested in this scholarship because I’m a big baseball fan, and when I looked into it more, I found it to be a great fit for me.”
Russell is set to attend the University of Florida this fall where she will study biological engineering and hopes to enter the realm of hydroponics and aquaponic production.
“My all-time aspiration is to implement hydroponic and aquaponic systems in schools so that the upcoming generations can see where agriculture is heading today, there are layers to what you can do.”
The scholarship will certainly help lessen the burden of university tuition.
“This scholarship has definitely put a big ease on my mind and to know I have additional help in being able to afford school now,” she said.
Over the last nine years, the Red Sox Foundation has raised nearly $500,000 for local nonprofits and scholarship opportunities. The 14 chosen (one per school) were selected from a pool of 211 applicants. Brennan Whitley, senior manager Florida business operations for the Boston Red Sox, said scholarship day (usually held before a Spring Training game) is one they look forward to especially each year.
“To be able to give back to some of these deserving students – it’s the best thing in the world,” Whitley said. “The applications they put in – they just pull at your heartstrings. They leave it all on the table. It’s amazing to hear what some of them have persevered through and what some of them are looking to do in the future. They’re going to be the change-makers in our community.”
A recent North Fort Myers grad and soon-to-be nursing student at Florida State University, Halie Hornsby said she was grateful to those who have supported her on her path to the next chapter in her life.
She’s looking to enter the world of pediatric oncology spurred by her childhood best friend being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 8.
“That inspired me,” Hornsby said. “I’ve always been around people who have, unfortunately, gone through cancer and started service projects for them as well. It’s always been something I’ve been working in and wanting to continue my work in.”
She said growing up in a single-family household, the scholarship will help her be able to take the courses required as well as supplies.
Jose Rojas, a recent graduate of Island Coast High School, also earned a scholarship and hopes to be able to return the favor to youth in the future.
“It’s amazing to be here with all of the other scholarship winners and meet faces of peers that were able to accomplish this,” Rojas said. “I’m very grateful. Being able to pay for your education is not something everyone can do. I want to hopefully be able to do this when I get older, to help local students get a college education and give back.”
Rojas is attending Florida Gulf Coast University next fall where he will major in contrition management. He wants to build dream houses for future homeowners while being environmentally cautious with his work.
“I want to be aware of my environment and work with reusable tools and materials,” he said.
Ida Baker recipient Olivia Barcenas Ortiz is also taking the next step to FGCU in the fall, where she will major in biochemistry and minor in phycology. The scholarship meant so much to her she shed a tear in her AP Biology class with her best friend upon hearing the news.
“I was very happy when I found out,” Ortiz said. “It’s something I didn’t think I would get. It feels amazing to be here with my peers who also earned this great achievement.”
Her dream is to become a psychiatrist to help improve the mental health of others and heighten awareness.
“I want to help other people that have struggled with mental health, because I myself have struggled with it,” Ortiz said. “It’s very important for me.”
Scholarship funds are raised from proceeds from the annual Swings For The Sox golf tournament held each fall to benefit the Red Sox Scholarship and other efforts. David Doran, owner of DLD Builders LLC out of Naples, has been the title sponsor of the event the last six years and knows what it’s like to have to strive for education despite setbacks.
“Financial aid is an important thing. All of these students should be able to achieve a dream,” Doran said. “Money should not be the reason that dream cannot be achieved.”
Clayton Simmons, executive director of school development with The School District of Lee County, graciously thanked the Red Sox Foundation and praised the scholarship recipients for their achievement.
“You should be honored because you’re one student selected from the 14 schools,” Simmons said. “You really should be proud of yourselves, that’s an amazing accomplishment and made yourself stand out in some way.”
All events in Southwest Florida under the Red Sox Foundation banner directly impact local organizations.
“This is our spring home; this is where we want to be. So it’s a huge factor for us to give back to this community,” Whitley said. “This community does a lot for us, and we want to give back to them. Every dollar that is raised through the Red Sox Foundation in Southwest Florida stays in Southwest Florida.
The Swing for the Sox golf tournament this year takes place Oct. 1. Whitley said information on registration should be available next month.
— Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj
The full list of scholarship recipients:
* Gabriella Dominicis — Bonita Springs High School
* Julia Lin — Cape Coral High School
* Ashley Walters — Cypress Lake High School
* Corbria Crawford — Dunbar High School
* Jonathan Hernandez — East Lee County
* Maria Hernandez — Estero High School
* Abner Wilhelm — Fort Myers High School
* Olivia Barcenas Ortiz– Ida Baker High School
* Jose Rojas — Island Coast High School
* Yasminie Sahadeo — Lehigh Senior High School
* Morgan Russell — Mariner High School
* Halie Hornsby — North Fort Myers High School
* Carolina Boitel — Riverdale High School