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Selby Gardens awards Sarasota student $15K leadership scholarship

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  • | 8:00 a.m. May 4, 2024
Zuleima Martinez, Virginia B. Toulmin Leadership Scholarship award recipient
Zuleima Martinez, Virginia B. Toulmin Leadership Scholarship award recipient
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Zuleima Martinez of Sarasota has won the inaugural Virginia B. Toulmin Leadership Scholarship, earning a $15,000 award to aid in her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

Martinez graduated May 3 with an associate’s degree from the State College of Florida and a 3.72 GPA. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of South Florida in Tampa this fall, according to a news release from Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

“The Virginia B. Toulmin Leadership Scholarship, awarded in honor of and in partnership with Selby Gardens President and CEO Jennifer O. Rominiecki as the scholarship’s first mentor, is a merit-based scholarship aimed at recognizing and encouraging female students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievements and leadership qualities,” the release states.

The program was established to aid development of future leaders and professionals who can contribute in impactful ways to the Sarasota community and its nonprofits.

The scholarship aims to build pathways to female leadership in the business and nonprofit world in Sarasota by providing mentorship, shadowing opportunities and financial support to high-achieving collegiate juniors or seniors pursuing bachelor’s degrees and holding a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

The selection committee comprised Selby Gardens’ trustees and major supporters. Martinez was chosen from three finalists selected from a pool of 17 qualified applicants. 

The criteria consisted of academic records, leadership and a demonstrated commitment to positive community impact. The 17 candidates represented New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and State College of Florida.

Since age 8, Martinez has been involved with Girls Inc., a nonprofit delivering high-impact services for girls and advocating on their behalf to offer life-changing programs and experiences. Martinez was a recipient of the organization’s services and now works at Girls Inc. as a program success coordinator. 

Martinez first connected with the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation during high school when she was given the opportunity to create a video about her experience at Girls Inc., called “Dreams of my Daughter.” 

“It was an amazing experience,” said Martinez in the release. “The girls I facilitate today now look up to me as a role model. I was and still am thankful for that opportunity that the Toulmin Foundation gave my mom and I to share our story.”

In addition to receiving mentoring sessions from Rominiecki, Martinez will be appointed to Selby Gardens’ Advisory Committee to observe Rominiecki in action. She’ll also receive a one-year membership to Selby Gardens.


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