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East County Saturday, Apr. 2, 2022 4 months ago

Nine Lakewood Ranch students get a boost with $10,000 scholarships

Picerne Family Foundation presents grants to Lakewood Ranch High School seniors.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Kelsey McLeod, a senior at Lakewood Ranch High School, has dreamed of going to Louisiana State University since she was 8 years old.

Her love of gymnastics first led McLeod to the university, and after touring the university last fall, she was certain.

“Stepping on a campus after it had been my dream school since I was 8, I literally just fell in love with it,” said McLeod, who has lived in Florida her entire life. “I want a different culture.”

Attending an out-of-state university isn’t cheap, but McLeod will have some help from a $10,000 scholarship from the Picerne Family Foundation. 

McLeod was one of nine Lakewood Ranch High School seniors to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the foundation.

“I was honestly speechless because I applied for a lot of different scholarships, but I never expected to get one, especially one that’s $10,000,” McLeod said. “I’m super excited.”

The Picerne Family Foundation was established by a Rhode Island real estate group in 1925. The company has regional offices in Florida.

Ricardo Acevedo, a college and career counselor at Lakewood Ranch High School, said the foundation reached out to him about the scholarships.

On March 28, the nine seniors were awarded the scholarships. Each of the students will receive $1,250 semiannually throughout their four years of college. 

All the seniors said the scholarship relieves stress.

“I’ll be the first person going to college in my family," said Mohamed Hageltoum, one of the scholarship recipients. "Both of my parents are African immigrants. I want to study civil engineering at (University of Central Florida) and I want to take some of that (knowledge and experience) and go back to the Middle East where I can help.”

Scholarship recipient Brooke Pater said having the scholarship will help her focus on her education and starting her own business while having fewer student loans to worry about.

Besides providing their transcripts, a letter of recommendation and two essays, the students had to write about a time in which they helped someone else.

Annabelle Lam, one of the scholarship recipients, wrote about sitting next to a student in middle school who had recently immigrated to the U.S. She helped the student transition to life in Florida and also helped him learn how to speak English. 

“I went through a hard time when I was younger, so I just wanted to help him out because English isn’t my first language either,” Lam said. 

Here is what the students have planned for their futures.

Kelsey McLeod
Kelsey McLeod

College: Louisiana State University

Major: Business professional sales

Dream job: Medical sales

“I’m super excited because I’m basically starting a new life,” McLeod said. “I’m going to a school where I don’t know anybody. I’m 11 hours away from my family. I’m so excited for that new chapter in my life.”


Anabelle Lam
Anabelle Lam

College: Vanderbilt University

Major: Human and organizational development

Dream job: Technology product marketing

“I wanted to go to a prestigious school, and I know Vanderbilt is known for being collaborative,” Lam said. “I just wanted to be in that type of environment going forward for university. Your junior or senior year they pair you with companies to do semester-long internships.”


Paige Willemsen
Paige Willemsen

College: University of Florida

Major: Architecture

Dream job: Owner of her own architecture firm

“Both of my parents went to the University of Florida, and it has the top architecture program in the state,” Williemsen said. “It has some great opportunities because it’s in Gainesville, and there’s a lot of people my family knows, so I’d be able to get a lot of opportunities from there.”


Sam Leavy
Sam Leavy

College: Undecided but between Notre Dame, University of Florida and Georgia Tech

Major: Engineering

Dream job: A job involving cancer research

“They’re all top schools,” Leavy said. “They all have top engineering programs, which is what I want to go into. They have nice campuses and a whole lot of opportunities for internships and research.”


Cassidee Calamaras
Cassidee Calamaras

College: Valencia College

Major: Film production technology

Dream job: Filmmaker 

“I want to be well rounded in all aspects of film and be able to take on any job I want from directing to editing because I enjoy every aspect of production,” Calamaras said. “Hopefully I can make some big movies someday.”


Mohamed Hageltoum 
Mohamed Hageltoum

College: University of Central Florida

Major: Civil engineering

Dream job: Civil engineer

“I want to go back into the Middle East and help people there,” Hageltoum said. “While living there, I saw a lot of poor infrastructure and buildings not being maintained. I know my talents because I can design, I have good problem solving skills, and I am relatively good at math, so it only makes sense for me to make those work and help out over there.”


Emanuel Ibarra
Emanuel Ibarra

College: University of South Florida

Major: Psychology

Dream job: FBI behavior analyst

“After watching (‘Criminal Minds’) I researched (behavior analysts) and I came to find out everything on the show wasn’t exactly what it was,” Ibarra said. “They’re portrayed as one group on the show but in reality, there’s three different groups that target specific areas, and they’re not always in the field. But it’s definitely an experience I want to go through, and it’ll be a growing experience.”


Brooke Pater
Brooke Pater

College: University of Tampa

Major: Entrepreneurship

Dream job: Business owner or real estate investor

“The entrepreneurial program is good (at the University of Tampa),” Pater said. “It also came down to being able to play beach volleyball. That was always my goal to play college sports and be able to get a bachelors degree in entrepreneurship and a masters degree too.”


Ashlie Langlois
Ashlie Langlois

College: Auburn University

Major: Biology with pre-med track

Dream job: Something in the medical field

“My best friend’s dad is a doctor, and I’ve grown up watching him and fell in love with what he did,” Langlois said. “I feel like that’s going to be best for me in the long run. I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I feel like biology is kind of a good buffer so I can figure out what I want to do in the future.”

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