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Mayor’s Scholarship Fund program honors 15 students

By CJ HADDAD - | May 17, 2024

Fifteen students were honored Tuesday at the annual Cape Coral Mayor’s Scholarship Fund Awards Celebration. Honorees received scholarships to their schools of choice. PROVIDED

Local students who have gone above and beyond in the realm of education were honored with scholarships to further their educational journeys Tuesday night in Cape Coral as part of an annual celebration.

The 2024 Cape Coral Mayor’s Scholarship Fund Awards Celebration took place at Palmetto Pine Country Club, where 15 students received funds that will assist them as they pursue higher education.

Students were given their kudos, thanks to their desire to make their communities and beyond a better place through awareness, education, career aspirations, and community service.

For 42 years, the volunteer, non-profit citizen’s action group has helped pave the way for local youth, some of whom have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, psychologists, teachers, and difference makers.

“Each year we are impressed with the accomplishments and goals of each recipient,” said Mayor’s Scholarship Fund President Joanne Hayden. “Their continued success in their studies will undoubtedly benefit the workforce and future of our community.”

The 2024 Cape Coral Mayor’s Scholarship recipients are highlighted. PROVIDED

Scholarships are made possible through generous donors over the years. The donations can make all the difference for these academic juggernauts, many of whom are balancing school with extra curricular activities, and even a job or two.

Established in 1982, the Cape Coral Mayor’s Scholarship Fund has now awarded $1 million in scholarships to more than 600 recipients. Each year, the fund awards 15 scholarships to 10 high school seniors from Cape Coral, two each from Cape Coral and Fort Myers technical colleges, and one to the police and fire academy. High school seniors receive a four-year, $4,000 scholarship, while the technical school and academy scholarship recipients receive a one-time $1,500 scholarship.

The 2024 Cape Coral Mayor’s Scholarship recipients include:

Alexa Ancheta — Oasis High School

Ancheta plans to major in finance at the University of Florida, with a goal of creating a financial literacy program for youth. She boasts a 3.98 GPA, is a member of the Cape Coral Youth Council, and president of her senior class.

Lisa Spooner, the morning anchor on NBC2 News Today, served as the program's emcee. PROVIDED

Alison Calle — Island Coast High School

Calle, an avid literature buff, plans to major in nursing at Florida SouthWestern State College. She was the service coordinator for Global Ambassadors, raising money for starving artists in Zimbabwe and children in need of educational funding.

Dalianys Lachel Hernandez — Mariner High School

Hernandez plans to major in dentistry at the University of Florida, and will graduate with a 3.9 GPA, ranking fifth overall in her class. She considers one of her most significant accomplishments was leading a group called Sandy Hook Promise Club; a national, student-led organization which protects children from gun violence.

Elizabeth Kiejl — Cape Coral High School

Members of the JROTC program at Oasis High School take part in the 42nd annual awards celebration. PROVIDED

The senior plans to major in psychology in the honors program at the University of Florida, with a bundle of minors to include political science, business management, and non-profit organizational leadership. Kiejl is Cape High’s Class of 2024 valedictorian and was the historian of the National Honor Society and secretary of the Hispanic Honor Society. She considers one of her greatest accomplishments as being the founding member of Cape High’s National English Honor Society.

Eyahna Pemberton — Ida S. Baker High School

Pemberton wants to teach, especially English, at the high school level. She is enrolled at Florida International University with plans to major in education. She was president of the school’s drama club, vice president of NTHS, and involved in many others. She also volunteered in her church’s children’s ministry and with Baker’s JROTC and projects such as Habitat for Humanity.

Gabriel Wright — Cape Coral High School

Wright was inspired to pursue a career in psychiatry after a near-death experience involving a family member. He plans to major in medicine at the University of Florida. Boasting a 4.0 GPA, he wants to focus on mental health and start a community clinic to help individuals deal with their issues. He was a leading researcher in Cape High’s psychology lab, and was involved in community service projects as a member of the National Honor Society and others. He also earned three varsity letters as a swimmer.

Giselle Leon — North Fort Myers High School

Leon’s goal is to spread awareness about the dangers of heart disease, and she will study biomedical engineering at the University of Florida with plans to attend medical school to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. She boasts a 4.0 GPA and was a commencement speaker at her graduation. She was involved in a plethora of extra curricular activities, such as HOSA and the National Honor Society.

Jaelle Rodriguez — Cape Coral High School

Rodriguez will study biology at Florida Gulf Coast University with plans to enter dental school afterward. She is a tireless worker and contributor in the community, working two jobs while being a student leader at her church. She was the executive board secretary for the Cape High’s Student Government Association, while playing basketball and lacrosse and running cross country.

Riley McFarland — Cape Coral High School

Wanting to make the world a better and cleaner place, McFarland plans to enroll in the Center for Environment and Society program at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is working with the Keep Lee County Beautiful Youth Council and the city of Cape Coral, proposing a cleaning project using plans to help strengthen the ecosystem in local bodies of water. She ranked sixth in her class with a 3.9 GPA and is an avid runner.

Veronica Verona — Cape Coral High School

Verona has a desire to help those with mental health issues and wants to become a criminal psychologist. Ranked third in her class with a 3.9 GPA, Verona will attend Wellesley College in Massachusetts majoring in psychology. She was the vice president of the National Honor Society, secretary of the Student Government Association, and treasurer of the environmental club. Verona said her most fulfilling extra curricular activity was being a Police Explorer with the Cape Coral Police Department, where she has amassed more than 200 volunteer hours and achieved the rank of sergeant.

Argeny Batista — Cape Coral Technical College

Batista is currently enrolled in the electronic technology program at CCTC, with hopes of opening his own business. A graduate of Cape High and University of Central Florida, Batista also worked at Challenger Middle and Mariner High as a paraprofessional and teacher from 2018 to 2023.

Kyle Hickman — Fort Myers Technical College

A recent Cape Coral resident by way of Michigan, Hickman enrolled in the turbine generator maintenance, inspection and repair program at FMTC after high school. Hickman said he is excited about the opportunities in the energy sector and enjoys the hands-on, practical skills he’s gaining every day.

Olga Hosie — Cape Coral Technical College

Hosie enrolled in the medical administrative specialist program in January of 2024, having moved to the United States from Ecuador four years ago. She plans to pursue a career in healthcare which will allow her to help medical professionals and their patients.

Tim Peters — Southwest Florida Public Service Academy

With the goal of joining the Cape Coral Police Department upon graduation, Peters is enrolled in the Law Enforcement Academy sector of the Southwest Florida Public Service Academy. He moved to the Cape from Germany when he was 17 and hopes to make a difference in the community through his chosen career.

Yamila Uzcategui — Cape Coral Technical College

A native of Venezuela, Uzcategui is pursuing her passion through the professional culinary arts and hospitality program at CCTC. She chose to enroll at CCTC to gain essential, real-world skills while broadening her culinary experience through various types of cuisines. Her dream is to one day own a Venezuelan-style coffee shop and restaurant.

For more information on the scholarship fund, visit capecoralmayorscholarship.com.