Longboat Kiwanis Club delivers a dozen scholarships to eager students.
For Zack Sessa, the scholarship was a shock.
Most of the other scholarships he had applied for had been decided or due in April, so to hear that he’d gotten the scholarship from the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key in July made him feel very fortunate, he said.
When Sessa lost his father last year, he said college and his future were not what he was thinking about, and he had to go through a lot of growth to get to this point. Now, he’s heading from Venice to the University of Florida to play on the football team as a wideout.
“I’m ready to blossom and grow and become the young man I want to be,” Sessa said in thanking the club.
Out of 61 applicants for the scholarship, 12 were awarded a $2,500 scholarship each, ceremonially receiving them at the annual Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key’s scholarship breakfast on Aug. 1. The Kiwanis Club was not able to have its annual Lawn Party fundraiser this year, so the perennially competitive scholarship was even more so this year. Scholarship chair Susan Phillips said the club wanted to still be able to make a significant difference for the students they chose, so they shrank the pool.
Still, half of the recipients were repeat winners.
“It’s about being a more whole person, a more well-rounded person,” said Phillips. “I just wanted you all to know we’ve got the cream of the crop here. And our repeat students have maintained a level of excellence.”
Six students attended the breakfast, held in the sunny Harbourside Ballroom. Several others who could not be there due to school-related obligations — yes, in the summer — were represented by parents, such as sisters Mikayla and Nicole Ambrosio, the former of whom is another repeat recipient. Their mother read letters from her daughters, getting choked up as she shared their accomplishments with the crowd.
Mikayla and Nicole, who attend Florida Southern in Lakeland, are following their dreams of affecting young lives through their plans to work in education and for the FBI. For Nicole, it was a dream that was shaky at times. During high school, she was diagnosed with a heart condition, and the costs of tests, visits and surgery piled up. The Kiwanis scholarship left wiggle room for college tuition.
“This opportunity would not be possible without this amazing scholarship,” she wrote.
Applause echoed throughout the ballroom after each student or their parent went up to accept the scholarship. The parents found it easier to tell of their children’s accomplishments than the students did, who usually demurred to thanks rather than their resumes, impressive as they are. Their words were humble and brief, with a short update on what they are working towards in school, or outside of it.
“I also work … a lot,” said repeat recipient Alexandra Mills after quickly running through a laundry list of her accomplishments.
For all who attended the breakfast, gratitude was at the forefront, from the students for the Kiwanis Club and from the Kiwanis Club for the hard work of the students.
“I just wanted to say thank you for investing in my athletics and education, and helping my family financially,” said Victor Garcia.