Carl Cannady, stuntman-turned-teacher-turned-stuntman-turned Cape Coral police officer, succinctly summed up the underlying theme of the 22nd annual Excellence in Education awards presentation held Monday night: A good education makes dreams possible.
"To the teachers, I say thank you," said Cannady, the keynote speaker at the event organized by the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and sponsored this year by the Breeze Newspapers. "To the students, I say follow your dreams. Make sure you finish school - it opens up so many doors - and the more you will enjoy the journey."
The dignitary and family packed dinner held at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre honored 28 students - one per school serving the Cape - and a like number of educators as well as five Chamber Education Committee scholarship winners.
Alexandra Mackey, Cape Coral High School, with mom Katherine Mackey.
The annual program, including the scholarships, means a lot to the recipients.
"I just have to say I'm so honored and thankful for this opportunity," said Alexandra Mackey, one of two scholarship recipients from Cape Coral High School. "It's going to help me with my future."
Mackey, who plans on attending the University of Florida and majoring in international studies, is one of the School District of Lee County's top achievers. She has earned a weighted grade point average of 5.34 while enrolled in Cape High's International Baccalaureate program. So far, she has culled an estimated $29,300 in awarded scholarship money to help make her professional goals a reality.
Excellence in Education honorees:
Sophia Grossi, Caloosa Elementary
Alexander Castro-Arias, Cape Elementary
Melanie Rojas, Christa McAuliffe Elementary
Not participating, Diplomat Elementary
Sierra Edelstein, Gulf Elementary
Chania Crowder, Hancock Creek Elementary
Raul Perez, Hector A. Cafferata Elementary
Amber Vevang, Oasis Elementary
Madeline Ritter, Patriot Elementary
Lucas Crandon, Pelican Elementary
Jaeda Daniels, Skyline Elementary
Sara LaCroix, Trafalgar Elementary
Jennifer Panicaro,Cape Elementary
Christi Llanes,Christa McAuliffe Elementary
Not participating, Diplomat Elementary
Lorraine Pisano, Gulf Elementary
Natasha Edinger, Hancock Creek Elementary
Courtney Wallace, Hector A. Cafferata Elementary
Katie Chaney, Oasis Elementary
Jessica Conley, Patriot Elementary
Pamela Woodruff, Pelican Elementary
Barbara Winitzer, Skyline Elementary
Linda Skidd, Trafalgar Elementary
Robyn Heller, Caloosa Elementary
Middle school students
Jacob William Molitor, Caloosa Middle
Erin Post, Challenger Middle
Tuan Tran, Diplomat Middle
Colton McMullen, FM Academy of the Arts,
Jocelyn Arroyo, Gulf Middle
Corey Williamson, Mariner Middle
Alex Carrasco, Oasis Middle
Hannah Brown, Providence Christian
Savanna Horseman, Trafalgar Middle
Chase Bella, St Andrews
Susan Knox, Caloosa Middle
Brenda Webb, Challenger Middle
Pamela Rodell, NFM Academy of the Arts
Alvin Piotter, Trafalgar Middle
Lori McLain, Oasis Middle
Jeff MacDougall, Gulf Middle
Dr. Natallka Hromiak, Diplomat Middle
Michael Rokosh, Mariner Middle
Pamela Rodriguez, Providence
Bambi Giles, St. Andrews
High School students
Daniel Schrank, Cape Coral HS
Rebecca Merritt, High Tech North
Natalia Camargo, Ida Baker HS
Alfredo Escalera, lsland Coast HS
Kyle Fontaine, Mariner HS
Brandon Rice, NFMHS
Not participating, North Nicholas HS
Joseph Paiz, Oasis HS
High School educators
Lori Shaw, Cape Coral HS
Kevin Hawk, High Tech North
Melissa Johnson, Ida Baker
Andrea Driscoll, Island Coast
CSM John Humphries, Mariner
Stephen Hommerbocker, NFMHS
Not participating, North Nicholas
Elizabeth Cannon, Oasis HS
Ciara Bennese, OASIS
Jillian Gottberg, IBHS
Alexandra Mackey, CCHS
Zachery Scribner, MHS
Gerardo Sibaja, CCHS
Source:?Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral
"Definitely," Mackey said when asked if scholarship programs like this one are important. "That's going to be a huge contributing factor to where I'm going to college. I'm very grateful for it."
So is her mother, Katherine Mackey.
"I'm just very proud," said Mrs. Mackey. "I'm thrilled, I'm very proud of her."
That was a view shared throughout the evening by parents accompanying smiling children, tweens and teens who got their moments of recognition on stage, along with a plaque to keep.
"It's just phenomenal we're able to recognize students who go above and beyond," said Sandra Aguilar, whose son, Gerardo Sibaja, was the second scholarship honoree from Cape Coral High School. Aguilar served previously for three years on the Chamber's Education Committee and she also addressed the program and the recognition process.
"They (the students) take on additional studies and activities in school and the community," she said. "It's good the chamber takes the time to recognize them."
Sibaja, who also is an International Baccalaureate student and whose weighted GPA is 5.12, said he is very grateful.
"It's a relief because I feel that college is a possibility because our community is willing to help students achieve," he said.
Sibaja is headed to the University of Central Florida where he plans to major in forensic science, an interest he has had since the 5th grade.
"I've always been interested in detective work and helping crime decrease around the community," he said.
He plans to return to the Cape after receiving his degree and then see where his occupational choice leads him.
"I think, at first, I'm going to come back to the community that raised me and then see what happens in the future," Sibaja said.
Zachery Scribner, Mariner High School, has been accepted at the University of Florida where he plans to major in computer science.
With a weighted GPA of 4.77, he is looking toward future success in a field he already loves.
"Being able to get a scholarship means a lot to me," he said, seated across from proud family members. "It means I can go and study something I enjoy."
"I'm just proud of my son, his academics," said his father, Dennis. "That he did so well means a lot."
Ciara Bennese of Oasis High School plans to attend Florida State University where she will major in international relations. A student enrolled in the city of Cape Coral charter school's AICE curriculum, she has a weighted GPA of 4.99.
"It's a really big honor to be honored by my community," she said as she sat with her mother, Jann.
Jillian Gottberg of Ida S. Baker High School will attend Southeastern University. She plans to study church music with her sights set on music ministry. She has earned a weighted GPA of 4.89.
"I am grateful, very grateful that they are giving me the opportunity to achieve my dreams and for the encouragement it has brought to my life," she said.
Students from elementary through high school were not the only honorees Monday night - top educators were also recognized both on stage and in presentations by District Superintendent Dr. Nancy Graham and Charter School Superintendent Dr. Angela Pruitt.
"Teachers, I'm grateful to you. Students, I'm proud of you, and teachers, I'm proud of you, too," said Graham.
Cindy Gallagher, Breeze Newspapers advertising director, shared a similar view.
"To the students being honored tonight, we say great job," she said. "To the educators, we say thank you so much for all that you do to teach, support and grow our children to successful adults."
In addition to the Breeze Newspapers, major sponsors included LCEC, Hodges University, Avalon Engineering, Nova Southeastern University, Achieva, Physicians' Primary Care, Cape Coral For the Children, Dixie Roadhouse, Arthur Printing, which printed the program guides, and Boost Creative, which provided the program book design and the Excellence in Education pages published in today's Breeze. Other sponsors included Crown Trophy, LAI Design Associates, Cheeta Printing & Signs, Subway, Keiser University, Giving Alliance of Women, Cape Coral Community Foundation and Marilyn Stout, candidate for Lee County School Board for District 1.
The efforts of the chamber, in providing the program for more than two decades, also did not escape notice.
"Being a Cape Coral girl since 1977, I'm very proud of the work the chamber does," said School Board member Mary Fischer, one of the numerous dignitaries enjoying the program from the audience. "I'm very proud of the work the chamber does in all of its activities but we're so very thankful of their support for education."