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A Night to the Class of 2023

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By Solymar Estrella, BGCSDC Alum and Intern

Packed away with their pictures and souvenirs are the lessons and skills Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto County seniors have learned throughout their time here. Most importantly in between leadership skills from the Students Taking Active Roles (STAR) program and the confidence to speak in front of a crowd lies all the memories that were made within their Club's walls. A few weeks ago, the annual Senior Celebration was held in recognition of the 131 graduating seniors and all of their remarkable achievements. Joined by family, friends, mentors, and prominent members of the community including Drs. Robert and Patricia Gussin, Steven and Majorlaine Townsend, Steve Cantees, Meghan Serrano, and Lee DeLieto, the Class of 2023 and their peers filled the gymnasium at the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club to commemorate the end of their undergraduate journey.

Club members, Ava M. and Ashley R. served as co-hosts and led guests through the evening as scholarships were presented and graduating seniors were named. The scholarships included the EmpowerED Scholarship, the Shannon Staub Excellence in Leadership Award, The Club’s Post-Secondary Transition Scholarship, the Dick Vitale Scholarship, the Knight Foundation Scholarship, the Drs. Robert and Patricia Gussin Endowed Scholarship at Duquesne University, the Steven and Marjolaine Townsend Scholarship, and the Youth of the Year Scholarship. However, the annual Senior Celebration is about so much more than awarding scholarships; “It’s an evening to celebrate their achievements and wish them well as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.” said Bill Sadlo, President & CEO.

Numerous awards were presented throughout the evening, beginning with North Port High School senior, Alex C., who was presented with the prestigious Drs. Robert and Patricia Gussin Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties Endowed Scholarship at Duquesne University. Established in 2014, the Drs. Robert and Patricia Gussin Endowed Scholarship was created for those students who, “demonstrate a commitment to academic excellence and unparalleled resiliency and have displayed outstanding leadership throughout their Club journey." said Robert Gussin. Alex will be heading off to Duquesne University in the fall, where he will join Club alumni and past Gussin Scholarship recipients Fatima D., Bryan B., Laura M., and others as he embarks on this next chapter of his life. “This scholarship has opened a door in my life to reveal an opportunity that will bring monumental change. Most importantly, now my mom can see the person I have become as a direct result of her efforts in raising me. We are both truly grateful,” said Alex C.

An impressive group of 16 members joined the existing 60 Steven and Marjolaine Townsend Scholars which provides a two-year Florida Pre-Paid Scholarship to the state community college, vocational school or four-year institution of their choice. They were selected for “demonstrating a commitment to academic excellence and both personal and professional development through mentorship,” said Majorlaine Townsend. One of the Townsend Scholars, Daria T. stated, “This scholarship will mean that I will not have to worry about debt throughout my first year of college, as it allows me to spend more time on my studies.”

Closing out the evening, the BGCSDC 2023 Youth of the Year, Nathan W., was recognized and presented with a $5,000 scholarship towards his post-secondary education at Vanderbilt University where he will be studying Cellular Molecular Biology. The Youth of the Year Scholar empowers youth to advocate for their passions and exemplifies what it means to be a Club member. Nathan said, “I will use this scholarship to solidify my commitment to The Club, but more than that, my Club’s commitment to me. The scholarship reminds me that my Club always has my back — even as I move onto this next chapter of my life.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2023 and their many achievements. As new Club alumni, you will find that the Club experience is ongoing. It doesn't end when you graduate, leave for college, or move away. The support and connections you cultivate at the Club are lifelong. The Boys & Girls Club alumni community will always be here for you. Remember, once a Club kid, always a Club kid!

Shannon Staub Excellence in Leadership Award

Mallory L., Venice High School

2023 EmpowerED Scholarship

Johntana N., Venice High School

Stephanie B., Venice High School

2023 Post-Secondary Transition Scholarship

Alexander C., Northport High School

Gabriella G., Pine View School

Johntana N., Venice High School

The Dick Vitale Scholarship

Helen M., Booker High School

Michelle P., Sarasota High School

Akiel M., Sarasota Military Academy

Daria T., Pine View School

2023 Knight Foundation Scholar

Ethan M., Pine View School

Robert and Patricia Gussin Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties Endowed Scholarship at Duquesne University

Alexander C., Northport High School

Steven and Marjolaine Townsend Scholars, Class of 2026

Nathan P., Sarasota High School

Zamiyah P., Northport High School

Malik T., Sarasota Military Academy

Jayden V., Imagine Schools North Port

Steven and Marjolaine Townsend Scholars, Class of 2024

Alaissa B., Riverview High School

Bianca H., Northport High School

Ghita D., Booker High School

Sierra M., Riverview High School

Miya O., Sarasota High School

Devonte T., Sarasota High School

Nia W., Sarasota High School

Steven and Marjolaine Townsend Scholars, Class of 2023

Cladayveon B., Booker High School

Jennica C., Sarasota High School

Rah’nia H., Booker High School

Kara P., Northport High School

Daria T., Pine View School

Youth of the Year Scholar

Nathan W., Pine View School

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