Gator-Aid awarded to 17 Treasure Coast students

 VERO BEACH – The Treasure Coast Gator Club presented scholarships to 17 deserving students at its annual Treasure Coast Gator Toast Scholarship Awards Dinner, held at the Moorings Club and chaired by Kerry Bartlett.  The $1,500 scholarships are awarded to graduating high school seniors and current University of Florida undergraduates who are residents of St. Lucie or Indian River County. Members of the scholarship committee, chaired by Lenora Ritchie, had each read all of the 49 scholarship applications that were submitted, and ranked them based on financial need and academic worthiness.

“They were all outstanding,” said Ritchie.  “We could have easily awarded another dozen scholarships.”

Approximately 260 guests attended the dinner, most sporting orange and blue Gator colors, with orange and blue beads and balloons thrown in for good measure.  And, for anyone who might have forgotten to wear the team colors, a host of Gator paraphernalia was available for sale.  Even the chef at the Moorings Club got into the team spirit with a dessert of orange sherbet and cookies, iced of course in orange and blue.

The Gator Toast began with a cocktail reception, where guests could peruse a number of silent and live auction items, and was followed by dinner and the awards program, including a video presentation by UF alumnus Bryan Smith, owner of 8th Avenue Motion Pictures.

“Bryan donated all his time for the video.  He drove all the way to Gainesville to videotape recipients who were still in school and interviewed each of the others here,” said Ritchie.

Each recipient was given a one-minute spot on the presentation to talk about what the scholarship meant to them.

Smith’s wife Carin was on the Gator Toast committee, and said the two met at the University.

“I was on News 5, which is the school’s TV station, and he was making the station work.”

The couple has two future Gators, seven week-old and four year-old sons.  Carin smiled and said, “The older one knows the Gator chant already.”

And, speaking of children, the TCGC President, Katy Block Faires, and President-Elect, Mandy Robinson, are due to give birth within about a week of each other, toward the end of June.

“Katie graduated in 2000 and I graduated in 2001,” said Robinson.  “We took classes together, but didn’t really know each other until after we wound up back here.”

Shane Matthews, a legendary UF football player, was the evening’s keynote speaker.  Matthews played as starting quarterback three years, from 1990 to 1992, where he remained undefeated at every home game and set a school record for career passing yards.  He began a career in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, and retired in 2007 after playing with the Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills.

And of course, the honored guests for the evening were the scholarship recipients and their proud parents, siblings and friends.

A. A. Block Endowment Scholarships were awarded to:

Amanda Bieber, a senior at Vero Beach High School;

Lester “Bo” Copeland, a junior at UF majoring in Animal Science;

Alexia Nolan, a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Sebastian River High School;

Ashley Pleie, a senior at Vero Beach High School;

Sarah Waickowski, a sophomore at UF, pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering.

Bryan Schirard Memorial Scholarships were awarded to:

Victoria Delaporte, a senior at John Carroll High School;

Kelsey Gordon, a junior at UF, majoring in Advertising, with a minor in International Development and Humanitarian Assistance;

Kellie Nelson, a senor at Lincoln Park Academy;

Hayley Snedeker, a junior at UF majoring in Agriculture Education and Communications.

Treasure Coast Gator Club Scholarships were awarded to:

Kurtis Dickson, a senior at Port St. Lucie High School, enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program;

Jose Esfandiary, a senior at St. Lucie West Centennial High School;

India Solomon, a senior at Port St. Lucie High School;

Meleah McMillen, a dually enrolled student at John Carroll High School and Indian River State College;

Shantel Powell, a junior at UF pursuing a degree in Psychology;

Sara Sapp, a freshman at UF pursuing a degree in Health Science, Pre-Osteopathic Medicine.

The Clint S. Malone Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Alison Schmeer, a sophomore at UF pursuing a degree in Elementary Education through the Unified elementary Pro-teach Masters Program.

The Mark & Robbi Pierce for the Hardee Family Foundation Scholarship was awarded to Jenipher Carrasquel Andrade, a senior at Vero Beach High School who is also dually enrolled at Indian River State College. {igallery 197}

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