More than 85 students were recognized for their exemplary character at the 12th annual American Youth Character Awards (AYCA) Banquet held last night at the World Golf Village Convention Center.
Honorees included 81 students from St. Johns County high schools who were identified as students of character. Twenty-eight seniors were recognized, along with 53 juniors from Bartram Trail, Creekside, Pedro Menendez, Nease, Ponte Vedra, St. Augustine and St. Johns Technical high schools as well as the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind and St. Joseph Academy.
Students also invited their parents and a mentor who has served as a character role model for them.
Criteria for the AYCA awards are based on the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. These awards recognize students for serving as good role models for their generation. Nominees were evaluated on the basis of the influence of the Six Pillars in their lives, especially as they relate to overcoming obstacles, making difficult choices, generosity and self-sacrifice, and community service. All honorees received certificates, pins and school letters. In addition, each senior received a $400 award in recognition of their exemplary character.
Eight other seniors were honored as Pursuing Victory with Honor nominees for displaying the Six Pillars of Character on the athletic field. The overall winner received a $400 check and the other school finalists each received $200.
The senior award recipients were Sara Cabell, David Frick, Eric Harvey and Christopher Popiel of Bartram Trail High School; Cyrus Boga, Stephen Handley, Xamondria Jones and Anna Rivoire of Creekside High School; Ana Monjaras and Chandler Peairs of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind; Kevin Allen, Lacey Estaphan, Tiesha Flagler and Jacey Gwaltney of Pedro Menendez High School; Travis Allen, Adrianna Barranco, Edgar Rivas and Cydney Tyburski of Nease High School; Megan Connors, Tyler Gleason, Rachel Pewitt and Dana Ratcliffe of Ponte Vedra High School; Quannisha Allen, Ajanai Edwards, Olivia Hodapp and Olivia Hutcherson of St. Augustine High School; Michael Kilgore of St. Johns Technical High School; and Brandon Allen of St. Joseph Academy.
The junior nominees were as follows:
Bartram Trail High School – Jordan Alexander, Vihasa Govada, Emily Haynes, Valerie Larson, Peter Le, Corey McDonald, Katherine Parker and Ryan Ward
Creekside High School – Kathryn Evans, Hannah Gupton, Mandi LeNoir, Brian McLaughlin, Adam Sandin, Jeanielle Verderese, Jordan Walker and Jordan Young
Florida School for the Deaf and Blind – Hilary Reed and Sherin Stephen
Pedro Menendez High School – Matthew Burkholder, Danielle Marhanka, Tityus Mitchell, Ari Newsome, Angelica Ortiz, Leisha Samuels, Taylor Sousa and Christopher Wilson
Nease High School – Cyrus Davis, Madison Deal, Issa Ford, Blake Francis, Daniel Hutton, Summer Jameson, Jared Sadlowski, Ceolamar Ways
Ponte Vedra High School – Meghan Douglas, Maxwell Ervanian, Julia Oliver, Chandler Russell, Bailey Sazera, Megan Shilling, Caroline Snowden, Kelsey Tatum
St. Augustine High School – John Paul Bennett, Whitney Hodapp, Jasmine Kearse, David Martinez, Briana Maxwell, Cory Morabito, Chelsey Osgood and Arden Strider
St. Johns Technical High School – John Drackley
St. Joseph Academy – Jacob Gaetanos and Alexandra White
Seven years ago the law firm of Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch, P.A. established the David Macaulay Mathis Memorial Victory with Honor Award to recognize a varsity athlete who exhibits the Six Pillars of Character. David Mathis was a 1999 International Baccalaureate graduate of Nease High School who was active in the Naval JROTC program and was a member of the varsity basketball team.
This year’s Pursuing Victory with Honor Award winner was Brittany Lassiter of Pedro Menendez High School. The other school finalists were Matthew Arnwine of Bartram Trail High School, Shannon Morris of Creekside High School, Kristina Garcia-Santiago of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, Manuel Quintanilla of Nease High School, Joseph Carzoli of Ponte Vedra High School, Quannisha Allen of St. Augustine High School and Michael Ryan of St. Joseph Academy.
The Tucker McCarty Character Counts! Scholarship has been established by Delaine and Obie McCarty to memorialize their son, Tucker, a graduate of Pedro Menendez High School and a student at the University of Florida. This scholarship is awarded to a student, like Tucker, who exudes good character in an effort to make the world a better place. Michael Kilgore of St. Johns Technical High School was awarded this year’s Tucker McCarty Character Counts! Scholarship and plans to attend the University of Northern Ohio and major in high performance automotive.
This year’s event was presented by Character Counts! of St. Johns County with support from the following partners and co-partners: The Bailey Group, Northrop Grumman, Prosperity Bank and Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch P.A., Allen Family Businesses (The Feed Store and Water Works), Cady and Cady Studios, Chick-Fil-A, St. Augustine Sunrise Rotary and United Way of St. Johns County. Many other businesses, civic organizations and individuals also contributed to this event.