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East County Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 1 year ago

Scholarship to honor student who died in accident

Family of Matthew Powers honors his legacy by helping others.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Following the car accident that killed Lakewood Ranch High student Matthew Powers on Sept. 15, 2018, his parents, Dan and Rebecca Powers, were trying to find a focus.

Rebecca Powers’ brother, John Geist, had died at 28 of a heart attack, and Rebecca remembered how it had broken her family, particularly her father, Otto Geist.

They were in shock and grief, but they knew the days and years ahead would be difficult.

“We had this conversation: ‘This cannot break us,’” Rebecca Powers said. “This cannot break our family. We have to protect his legacy he was not able to build on his own.”

January 1 marked the start of a new part of Matthew Powers’ legacy — the launch of the Matthew Ryan Powers “March on for Matt” scholarship.

It will be available for graduating seniors or graduates of Lakewood Ranch High School who are attending an accredited two- or four-year educational institution. To be eligible, students must have a minimum 3.2 GPA, demonstrate financial need, submit an essay and have been active in the bands of Lakewood Ranch High School.

The scholarship can be used for tuition, fees or even on-campus housing. The Manatee Community Foundation is tasked with awarding scholarships.

Applications are being accepted through March 31, and recipients will be presented with scholarships during the bands’ award ceremony this spring.

The Powers said for the first year, the scholarship will be $2,000. Every year after, the amount will vary based on earnings from an endowed fund. However, they expect the annual figure to be $2,000 or more. The scholarship could go to one student or multiple students, depending how the Manatee Community Foundation decides to allocate it.

Matthew Powers took his first music lessons — piano — at age 7 in Kansas. His parents didn’t  understand his natural talent until a few years later when he sat at the piano at church and started playing a song by ear.

At Haile Middle School, he took band and orchestra — perhaps just to get an “easy ‘A’,” Dan Powers said — but he fell in love with it. He played clarinet but taught himself to play tenor saxophone during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years at Lakewood Ranch High School because he wanted to play in the jazz band, where no clarinets were to be found. And, of course, he played clarinet in the Mustangs’ marching band.

Rebecca Powers said her son had decided he wanted to be a high school band teacher.

“Music was always a part of that conversation [about his future],” she said.

Matthew Powers would have been 17 on Jan. 19. He would have graduated in the class of 2021.

Manatee Community Foundation Executive Director Susie Bowie said the endowment for the Matthew Ryan Powers “March on for Matt” scholarship is set up in a way that others from the community may contribute to make the endowment larger.

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