Okeechobee High School’s stage normally would be a busy location for the school’s scholarship night ceremony with seniors coming up to receive accolades. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the students from the class of 2020 did appear on stage, but only in photos that were shown on a large screen. Still, the virtual ceremony, which was streamed live May 14 on Facebook, didn’t diminish their accomplishments.
Principal Lauren Myers proudly told viewers that the 354 scholarships awarded to 120 students represented $1.275 million. That figure includes $720,000 for students entering the military and $177,750 from national and state scholarships. The remainder came from the Okeechobee community, including businesses, organizations, memorials and other segments.
“Seniors, in the midst of an economic shutdown, our Okeechobee community pulled together and invested $377,635 in you and your future,” Myers said. “You – 120 students awarded tonight – stood out among the class of more than 400. You did the work to provide personal statements and spend the time gathering transcripts and letters of recommendation all to earn this recognition and honor.”
The 75-minute ceremony hosted by Myers and other OHS personnel drew more than 4,000 views as of May 19.
Seminole Casino Brighton and the Seminole Tribe of Florida each provided scholarship awards. The casino awarded $5,000 total in scholarships to 10 students. Receiving $500 each were: Dayton Buxton, Tyekia Byrd, Julie Garcia-Arias, Kendall Harrison, Ta’makia Jones, Emily Land, Brandon Mitchell, Aubrey Pearce, Jennifer Salas Garcia and Ashley Snyder.
STOF awarded $2,500 scholarships to Cera Elliott and Simone Washington.
Seminole students who earned scholarships included Kaleb Thomas and Kamani Smith. Thomas earned two scholarships. He was named a recipient of the Florida Bright Futures Gold Seal Vocational Scholarship ($2,000) and the Devon Venables Memorial Scholarship ($500). Smith won the Black Bull Media Films “I Matter” Scholarship ($250).
Thomas and Smith are among OHS seniors who are also Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School graduates. That group includes Aubrey Pearce, who earned several scholarships. She received the following: Okeechobee County Cattlewomen’s Association ($500), Elks Most Valuable Student ($400), Kent Price Memorial ($1,000), Hammock Scholarship ($600), Vietnam Veterans of America Okeechobee Chapter 1086 ($500), Bright Futures Academic Scholar ($7,000), Gilbert Ford “Built Ford Tough National FFA” ($1,000), Glades Electric ($4,000), Eli’s Western Wear ($500), Okeechobee County Farm Bureau “Young Farmer & Rancher” ($1,000), Okeechobee Youth Livestock Show and South Florida Fair.
Seniors entering the military, including PECS graduate Jenna Brown, were recognized by OHS’s JROTC instructor Maj. Donavan Locklear.
“These young men and women have put country before self by contracting to go into the armed forces of the United States,” Locklear said. “In doing so, they have sworn to support and defend the constitution of the United States… Parents you should feel extremely proud of this moment for your part in your son or daughter’s commitment to serve their country.”
Brown will be joining the U.S. Navy. The other students headed into the military are: U.S. Army – Jordan Bradley, Dallas Delgado, Danielle Harper, Issac Herron, Gloria Leviano, Juliett Navarro Nieto, Deborah Sales; and U.S. Marines – Demetri Smith.
In her concluding remarks, Principal Myers urged the recipients to set goals and go after them.
“You certainly will be a senior class that we will never forget,” she said.