Scholarship awards night held to recognize seniors

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photo by Sophia Canabal

Senior Isabel Perez receives the University of Tampa scholarship. Twenty-eight others were awarded at the ceremony.

A speech with  Teacher of the Year Po Dickinson’s “mom jokes” might not be the most traditional thing to hear at an awards ceremony, but f 2021 has not been traditional anyways. On Monday, April 26, seniors attended the annual scholarship awards ceremony to receive awards and scholarship earnings. 

The seniors arrived at the auditorium at 6:30 p.m., many without a clue as to which award they would be receiving. Regardless, every student was left with a proud smile by the ceremony’s end, their confidence bolstered by the recognition they had waited four years to earn. 

“To be at this point of recognition, [students] have worked hard, and now it’s time to celebrate their achievements,” said dean Paula-Rae Criuckshank. 

Certain aspects of the event had to be adjusted in order for the ceremony to follow social distancing restrictions. The number of allowed attendees was lowered and the audience’s seating arrangements had to be adjusted as well. The audience was directed to sit in separate groups of three, leaving two or three seats between each group. Students were also allowed to invite only two people to the ceremony. The ceremony is traditionally combined with the Honors Graduation ceremony, but this year the event is held separately.  

Nevertheless, a half-empty auditorium could not make the ceremony any less memorable. 

“I wish I could’ve invited more people, like my siblings, but it was special just being with my parents” Sam Momary Tradition of Excellence winner Courtney Downing said. 

Downing, along with the rest of the scholarship recipients, was not informed as to what she was being awarded until the moment her name was called by the announcer. 

“I was very shocked when Bryce started reading information about me in her speech,” Downing said. 

Applying for and receiving the Sam Momary Tradition of Excellence scholarship meant much more to Downing than simply money and recognition. It signified a farewell to a place that she has grown extremely familiar with.

“While actually applying for [the scholarship], in my essay, I wrote about my walk through high school,” said Downing. “I started to tear up while writing it because it’s all coming to an end.”

The night concluded with a final speech by principal Robert Frasca. Hagerty’s namesake, former superintendent Paul J. Hagerty, also made an appearance to both congratulate the seniors and award Margaret Taylor the Hagerty Family scholarship. 

“Every student needs, wants, and should get this recognition,” said Criuckshank. 

The school has offered the traditional onslaught of senior activities to the graduating class of 2021. Apart from the scholarship awards ceremony, those graduating on May 7 have enjoyed a variety of school-sponsored celebrations, including Senior Breakfast, Senior Sunset, and the Sammy’s, each commending the graduating class’ four-year long effort toward a successful future. 

“It’s a four-year process,” said Criuckshank. “With hard work you are being recognized, you’re being seen, you’re being noticed.”

Scholarships are high priority to almost every student, but working toward a scholarship and winning one are two different things. Earning the award can be a difficult process, one that Downing knows how to manage.

“Even the smallest scholarships will help you,” said Downing. “Just apply for as many as you can and make it your mission.”

With COVID-19 restrictions and rushed college applications, cases of senioritis have been all too common among the class of 2021, and this year has put seniors’ commitment to the test. 

“Kids think ‘I’m in school, I’m tired of it’ and they just give up, but this [ceremony] shows that hard work does pay off,” said Criuckshank.

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