Flagler County, FL (April 27, 2021) Vans and motorcades zipped around Flagler County on Tuesday, filled with area business owners, civic organization members and elected officials, all with a predetermined mission – to deliver nearly half a million dollars in scholarships to students in Flagler County as part of “Surprise & Drive”.
Staging at the parking lot of the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center, excited adults paired up with their school representatives and set off with great anticipation, timing the visits to coincide with students’ arrivals home from school.
Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt and Colleen Conklin headed off with members of the United Caribbean Cultural Association to personally deliver three scholarships for $500 each.
“This is an incredible day for our seniors, and it’s monumental in terms of scholarships that they have been awarded and recognized by our community business partnerships with our Ed Foundation. It’s fantastic and I’m excited to get out there and see some smiling faces,” she said thanking the supportive businesses and individuals.
“It’s all about community involvement and engagement, and this opportunity allows those business partners to step forward and support our future leaders. Our kids are going to be the next generation of what stands up our country, so to me that’s important,” said Mittelstadt.
Even with COVID, locals were generous when it came to the students according to Joe Rizzo, executive director of the Flagler County Education Foundation, whose own daughter Caroline Rizzo is part of the Class of 2021.
“We’ve had some amazing organizations and when we’ve reached out to them about doing this, they’ve actually come to the table with more,” shared Rizzo. “You could just tell that the giving and the caring of the community it’s been really good.”
While scholarship awards varied from modest to thousands of dollars each, Bethune-Cookman University professor Dr. Kideste Yusef said no amount of support via scholarship was too small.
“They’re vital. Often time students may not have enough funds to go into the institutions they want, so every little bit helps,” said Yusef.
On behalf of the Flagler-Palm Coast Kiwanis Club, president Lisa Schulten said the club – a top contributor, was set to award multiple scholarships, two of them for $8,000 each.
“Today we have the privilege of awarding 10 scholarships to students across this county,” she said.
On the road during her first stop and bearing the scholarship from Flagler Technical College, student services manager Lynn Taillon said the $3,600 award presented to Christian Harrington combined $1,000 from the Flagler County Education Foundation and $2,600 from the college to ensure Harrington could complete the heavy equipment operator program.
“Christian is awesome. He’s one of the seniors in our heavy equipment operations technician program this year. He has learned and grown so much while he’s been in the program, and he wants to actually work locally and put to good use his education. He applied for the scholarship and we’re just honored to award that to him,” said Taillon.
Surprising Harrington at his workplace, customers and staff at the Winn-Dixie in Palm Coast applauded the soon-to-be graduate.
“I would like to say thank you. It was very nice of them to help. I didn’t know what to do because I would have to up my hours here and stuff, just to pay,” he said humbly.
Driving the van to shuttle around the Flagler Technical College and Flagler Tiger Bay Club representatives, it was a proud dad moment for Flagler Palm Coast High School U.S. government and economics teacher Tim Whitfield as he arrived at his own home to deliver a scholarship to daughter Brianna Whitfield and see her already surrounded by others delivering scholarship news.
“I could not be more proud. Not only is she an excellent student, she’s a good kid,” shared Tim Whitfield. “I was lucky enough to be her father, is the best way I could put it.”
Headed for the University of Central Florida, Whitfield put a promising athletic opportunity on hold to attend her choice school after being accepted to places like the University of Miami. The aspiring law student hopes to put The U in her future, down the line.
“I am super blessed and super grateful,” she said. “I got accepted to the University of Miami and I had a really tough decision. Hopefully I can defer my enrollment and pursue law and go to law school there once I’m done with my Bachelor’s.”
Tearfully accepting a hug from her Matanzas High School principal Jeff Reeves, he was as moved by the moment as she was.
“I’ve known Brianna for four years, met her at volleyball, and this year she was our school board representative,” said Reeves. “She and I spent a lot of time this year talking together and working through problems. It’s very special to me and I’ll never forget her.”
Picking up a scholarship from the Flagler Tiger Bay Club and the Palm Coast Historical Society, Reilly Maresca said that receiving $5,000 in scholarships in addition to Bright Futures ensures he’ll be able to devote his attention to scholarly endeavors at Florida State University.
“It’s definitely a massive burden taken off to be able to really focus on academics as I’m going into the next couple of years, and not having to worry about the financial side of it, which is something that unfortunately inhibits so many people,” said Maresca.
After delivering the final scholarship on his run, Jake Scully said recalling the days of his own children’s college experience was one reason he was motivated to give.
“Having put two children through college, I get it,” he said. “It means all the more to me personally to contribute to the kids coming through the school system as my children did.”