Saturday, November 27, 2021

Woman’s Club Rewards MIA and Lely Students with Scholarships

Photos by Scott H. Shook | Woman’s Club officers Julia Maslanka, Elizabeth White, Debbie Rago and Elisabeth Rechtin. Two new board members were not present for the photograph: Barbara Malta and Leesa Carls.


Nine students from Lely High School and Marco Island Academy were awarded scholarships by the Marco Island Woman’s Club on Wednesday, May 5, at the Marco Island Yacht Club. Kevin Barry, a Marco Island Academy student, won the top award – the $16,000 Verne Cabooris Scholarship.

Barry quoted the Dali Lama in his personal statement, saying “the goal is not to be better than your fellow man, but your previous self.” Barry referenced his mother often during his speech. 

Grace Fields will attend the University of Hartford.

“Ever since I was a young boy,” Barry said, “my parents have been telling me, ‘Kevin, do the little things right, and great things will happen.’ When I was about five years old, I asked my mom, ‘Is one of those little things brushing my teeth?’ She said, ‘Of course, Kevin.’ From there I went on to ask if something was one of those little things about 100 times or more. And every single time she said, ‘Of course Kevin.’ The funny thing is, when I won this scholarship, I went up to my mom and said, ‘Remember all of those little things you always told me about? I guess they really did pay off.’ She said, ‘Of course Kevin, I told you so.’”

Barry, who in grade school once stated his goal was to become President of the United States, tempered his goal slightly at the Woman’s Club luncheon. “In the end,” Barry said, “I want to put the skills I’ve learned in college and beyond into a usable toolbox that I can bring back and use to help my hometown community. Possibly as Florida’s Attorney General or Florida’s governor.”

Jasmin Schauer was the first student speaker. Schauer, a Marco Island Academy senior, received a $2,000 Lorraine Rodgers Scholarship and a $3,000 Marco Island Woman’s Club (MIWC) Foundation Scholarship. Schauer has the lofty goal of becoming a physician. She has volunteered with Dr. Josephine Gasper since she was a high school freshman. “I’ve gained over 500 hours of patient exposure and insight into running a medical practice,” Schauer told the audience. She also has over 200 community service hours for her school. Schauer was also the captain of MIA’s tennis team. “My career goals are to become a physician and conduct neuroscience research in order to better understand complex medical issues like Alzheimer’s.” 

Reese Jones is a MIA student who will be attending Florida State University after studying abroad this fall. Jones completed the Cambridge AICE Honors Program while at MIA. The Cambridge AICE Diploma is an internationally recognized diploma awarded to students for the satisfactory completion of a series of academically rigorous courses specific to AICE in high school. “I will go to Italy for the fall semester and return to the Tallahassee campus for the winter semester,” Jones said. “I plan on either being a therapist or a teacher, either first or third grade, because those were my favorite years.” Jones received a $2,000 Lorraine Rodgers Scholarship from the Woman’s Club.

Grace Fields is President of the National Honor Society at MIA and will attend the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut. She received a $2,000 Lorraine Rodgers Scholarship. “I lost my twin sister at a young age,” Fields said. “The best way to honor someone is through memorials that give back to the community. I memorialize my sister through an annual toy drive for the Golisano Children’s Hospital. When my sister and I were in the hospital battling a very rare blood disease called HLH, and bone marrow transplant, people were nice enough to donate toys to us for the holidays. This is what started my love for volunteering. My family started a toy drive when I was very young.”



Julian Totten of Marco Island Academy received a $3,000 MIWC Foundation Scholarship. Totten was described as a multi-faceted young man with intellectual tenacity and a strong spirit. An artist, a musician and a scholar who demonstrates his musical and theatrical talents in projects, plays and theatrical productions. “Hope is a big thing for me,” Totten told the audience. “I look to fortune cookie fortunes for guidance in my life. One I want to share with you today says that hope is the most precious treasure to a person. That really resonates with me. Because hope is what motivates me in life. I’m super excited for college because it’s the biggest opportunity of my life. So much hope lies ahead. I like to say that I’m a creative person. I’m pretty in touch with my emotions because I use art and music in all forms to understand myself and to connect with the people around me. Music has been the center of my life since I started playing cello at age five. I plan on attending FGCU where I’ll be majoring in art, which is also a big part of my life. I’ll work on music in my free time, with hopes of becoming a big name in the music industry or an art teacher. I have really big dreams. And what I mean by that is, I want to be on top of the music industry. I mean on top like the Justin Bieber level. Being a famous musician would be an honor for me because I want to inspire young people to use music to understand themselves because my favorite music artists have done that for me. I promise I will not let you down.”

Kevin Barry won the $16,000 Verne Carbooris Scholarship.

Joey Puell, a MIA student who is the youngest of nine children, received a $3,000 MIWC Foundation Scholarship. He will attend the University of Florida. Puell is a busy young man who is active in theatre, sailing, scouting, music, student government, interact club, key club, and the National and Spanish National Honor Societies. “I’ve always had ambitions, and they’ve changed in small ways throughout my life,” Puell said, “but no matter what, I plan to be educated and help people with the power of science – and more specifically medicine. That’s why I’m incredibly grateful for this scholarship. It will allow me to put all my efforts into my studies without as many worries about making ends meet. I plan to be the scholar that I’ve always wanted to be. I have wide interests. I’m a musician and enjoy playing music. I find a lot of joy in my athletic activities. Sailing and the water give me comfort. And I’ve recently been awarded the Eagle Scout rank from Boy Scouts. I love science and I love people, too. That is why I want to become a doctor. I’m excited to go to college and do things that I’ve dreamed about for years. I plan to attend the University of Florida. I’ve signed up for the Summer B term.”

Eden Krumholz and Ellie Poling, both of Lely, were unable to attend the luncheon. Krumholz received a $3,000 MIWC Foundation Scholarship and will attend Florida State University. Poling also received a $3,000 MIWC Foundation Scholarship and will attend Georgetown University.

Matthew Vergo brought many in the audience to tears with his heartrending speech. He started out by recognizing his first-grade teacher, Jill Dizio. Dizio is now retired and is a member of the MIWC.

“Mrs. Dizio was my teacher in first grade,” Vergo said. “I was kind of surprised when I saw her here, but happy to see her. For me, high school was a challenge,” Vergo continued. “I have a speech impediment – I stutter. Speaking in front of my class was a huge challenge. I’ve taken speech therapy since second grade to try to get over it. So here I am. High school kind of forced me to get over it.” Vergo will attend FGCU.

Matthew Vergo won over the audience with a story of overcoming struggles. Vergo will attend FGCU.

Jill Dizio was proud to have three of her former students mention her in their speeches. “Oh, extremely proud,” Dizio said. “I remember when they were little. First grade, third grade. I’m very proud of them. I saw a lot of potential in them at that time. I really did.” Dizio said the fact that the students reflected back to her influence as a grade schoolteacher speaks to the success of Tommie Barfield Elementary. “It’s part of the Tommie Barfield culture,” Dizio said. “The fact that we’re a small island, yet we have a pretty large elementary school. When I retired and joined the Woman’s Club, there were some people who didn’t realize how large the school system is here on Marco. That we have this great elementary school. Of course, they knew about the high school and the middle school. So, it’s been very rewarding to be on this end of it.”

“I think of a story about Ellie Poling, who wasn’t here today,” Dizio said. “She was riding her bicycle with her helmet on, in their driveway, when she hit the curb and broke her jaw. She had to have her jaw wired shut. So, the entire Poling family went on a liquid diet to support her.”

“Kevin Barry always stood out with his red hair,” Dizio smiled. She taught Barry in first and third grade. “He was very friendly, and such a writer. He’s won many awards for his writing. He was quiet, but very friendly. I saw a lot of growth from first to third grade in him.”

“Julian Totten was a great reader. Just soaking up knowledge in first grade. He’s a unique individual. I also taught Matthew Vergo. I remember him in first grade and second grade speech therapy. He was quiet. He has such a supportive family. I also taught Reese Jones and Jasmin Schauer. Reese was a pretty little girl and friendly with everyone. Jasmin was stoic, very goal oriented. Very hard working. She’s very mature.”


Joey Puell gets emotional. He will attend the University of Florida.


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