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Students, educators feted at annual Excellence in Education dinner

May 1, 2014
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

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.

Article Photos

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.

Fact Box

Excellence in Education honorees:

Elementary students

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

Elementary educators

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

Middle educators

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."



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