SEBRING — This year, Alan Jay Wildstein and members of Sebring Area Chamber of Commerce couldn’t decide on one Sebring High School senior to get an award.

That’s why four students got scholarships Thursday at the 26th annual Scholarship Awards and Recognition Banquet at Island View Restaurant. Two of them got $2,000 scholarships; two more got $4,000.

That worked out to $12,000, just under the $12,430 raised at the event itself by direct donors, who gave $6,215 total, and Wildstein who doubled that number.

At the start of the banquet, Wildstein told the audience he felt honored being in Sebring the last 27-and-a-half years.

But he said the most important part of the banquet was not fundraising, but honoring students who’ve excelled in academics, athletics, volunteerism and arts.

The $4,000 award recipients are:

• Kristal Shands has a 4.42 grade point average (GPA). Born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, she will graduate with a high school diploma and associates degree.

Described as a “volunteer addict,” she has helped with many local organizations, including Heartland Horses Equine Activities & Learning Inc. and Archbold Biological Station in the plant ecology lab. She enjoys studying ribonucleic acid (RNA) in cells of dogs to identify the probability of animals passing on hereditary diseases.

Shands plans to attend State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, with the goal of studying endangered species and saving them from extinction.

She wants Sebring to get a Chick-fil-A, and wants to see more lake events.

• Christopher Wolf has a 4.47 weighted GPA and is president of the International Baccalaureate students at SHS. He also won Eagle Scout Project of the Year for the Boy Scouts of America Tampa Bay Area Council: A shade shelter for the pets at The Humane Society of Highlands County.

He got third at the science fair for studying magnetic fields’ affect on plant growth.

Wolf plans to study chemistry at the University of Florida, plays piano to relax and enjoys, where he can go check the accuracy of political statements.

He’d like to see the bowling alley rebuilt on U.S. 27, and also wants a Chick-fil-A.

The $2,000 award recipients are:

• Sydney Ervin has a 4.3 GPA, has enjoyed showing animals through Future Farmers of America, has interned with a local large-animal veterinarian, and after college, hopes to return to work as a large-animal veterinarian.

She would like Sebring to have a Chick-fil-A and a “large shopping mall.”

• Emily Lethbridge has a 4.63 weighted GPA and will graduate with 60 college credits, thanks to dual enrollment. She is a Microsoft Certified Master, performed as Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” at Highlands Little Theatre, has written 170 pages of a novel and has volunteered at Camp Wakataka, a Christian camp on Lake Denton.

She plans to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and would like Sebring to attract a Chick-fil-A and Panda Express.

The other five honorees are:

• Jadon Bareno — With a 4.25 GPA, he played basketball until he tore his ACL (Anterior cruciate ligament) and has since been named the No. 1 Fan of the SHS Lady Streaks volleyball team. He plans to study chemistry at the University of Florida and become a pharmacist. He’d like Sebring to have a trampoline park, a tropical smoothie café and a Chick-fil-A.

• Aidan Beeching — With a 4.55 weighted GPA, he plans to attend Florida Polytechnic and major in computer science with a focus on cyber security. He, like Lethbridge, is a Microsoft Certified Master, and has coded a website for a startup company. He would like to see other young people be more informed.

• Mika Ella Descartin — With a 4.5577 GPA, she is ranked third in her class, plans to attend the University of Florida, then University of Miami for graduate school. She wants to master in neuroscience, studying mental disorders. She also wants a Chick-fil-A in Sebring.

• Paolo Piñeda — With a 4.42 GPA, he has performed in the SHS Show Choir and has self-taught himself on guitar, bass, piano, xylophone and melodica. He has won a national songwriting competition and has worked as a photographer for a congressional candidate. He earned a 1510 out of 1600 score on his Scholastic Aptitude Test and plans to study musical theater at Florida Atlantic University. In Sebring, he’d like to see a bowling alley.

• Jade Sinness was not present because she had to compete in the state softball tournament, which Sebring won later that afternoon. She has a 4.45 GPA, plays on the volleyball team, has volunteered in many ways — including hurricane cleanup — and plans to attend Troy State University.

She’d like Sebring to have more reasonably-priced shops on the Circle, a Culver’s restaurant and a Longhorn Steak House.

Liz Barber, chamber president/CEO, said Wildstein had been giving these annual scholarship awards for 26 years, and had also given away “autos for ‘A’s” every year to graduates of Highlands County’s three high schools and also graduates of Hardee Senior High School and Clewiston High School — 81 so far.

He has three more yet to give away at graduations tonight and this weekend.

Wildstein said he wanted to make sure the scholarship fund, now at $80,000, could reach $100,000 and be self-sustaining through investment.


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