More than 90 students were recognized for their exemplary character at the 13th annual American Youth Character Awards (AYCA) Banquet held on Thursday, May 2 at the World Golf Village Convention Center.
Honorees included 85 students from St. Johns County high schools who were identified as students of character. Thirty-one seniors were recognized, along with 54 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, St. Joseph Academy, Beacon of Hope Christian School and St Johns Virtual School.
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 $1,000 check and the other school finalists each received $400.
The senior award recipients were Amber Babcock, Valerie Larson, Corey McDonald and Tyler Powell of Bartram Trail High School; Frank Cirillo, Dawit Rumicha, Jake Rouse and Salome Tamayo of Creekside High School; Nicholaus Fiore and Charles Elliott of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind; Danielle Forgie, Danielle Marhanka, Spencer Willis and Chris Wilson of Pedro Menendez High School; Daniel Brookman, Michelle Emamdie, Andrew Holness and Natalie Magana of Nease High School; Andrew Blocker, Max Ervanian, Hana Kusumoto and Lexi Zawacki of Ponte Vedra High School; Cory Morabito, David Martinez, Whitney Hodapp and Nick Stultz of St. Augustine High School; Daniel Romero of St. Johns Technical High School; Joseph Brown of St. Joseph Academy; Shannon Rogers of St. Johns Virtual School; and Christy Clements and Kacy Douglas of Beacon of Hope Christian School.
The junior nominees were as follows:
Bartram Trail High School – Hanna George, Maggie Borngesser, Caleb Grantham, Jacob Allen, Danielle Miller, Emma Magee, Courtney Krueger and Lily Peterson
Creekside High School – Andres Camacho, Carol Anne Connolly, Chris Lendon, Hank Mengel, Lindsay Pustay, Morgan Richburg, Sarah Schreck and Jesscia Van Cleave
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind – Nicolas Bemis and Veda Casorla
Pedro Menendez High School – Nick Argitis, Trevon Bryant, Andrew Cole, Amber Deitrick, Willie Harvey, Jolene Helmly, Rebecca King and Allison Parks
Nease High School – Jared Bassett, Diksha Brahmbhatt, William Duncan, Brooke Ference, Jared Heinrich, Madison Stenzel, Danai Stone and Nicole Thatcher
Ponte Vedra High School – Lauren Brychell, Monica Connelly, Mimi Haley, Ben Ohno, Justin Sandler, Lexi Schur, Michael Vazquez and William Reed Waldenmaier
St. Augustine High School – Courtney Rumbel, Rachel Hackney, Regan Kennen, Asia Hayes, Wilecia Rickerson, Ivan Barber, Michael Ettel and Colton Andre
St. Johns Technical High School – Erick Cedeno
St. Joseph Academy – Samantha Kelemen and John Supina
St. Johns Virtual School– Jordan Schrader
Eight 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 Sierra Riter of St. Augustine High School. The other school finalists were Hannah Gupton of Creekside High School, Matt Burkholder of Pedro Menendez High School, Corey Koski of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, Nick Uruburu of Bartram Trail High School, Matthew Deegan of Ponte Vedra High School, Mary Sieredzinski of Nease High School and Kyle Vrban of St. Joseph Academy. As co-sponsors of the Pursuing Victory with Honor Awards, Jacksonville Jaguars Senior Vice President of Sales Chad Johnson and Jaguars Player Jeris Pendelton assisted with the presentation of finalists and the winner.
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. Max Ervanian of Ponte Vedra High School was awarded this year’s Tucker McCarty CHARACTER COUNTS! Scholarship.
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; Jacksonville Jaguars and the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation; Flagler Hospital; Prosperity Bank; and Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch P.A.; Rhodes Graduation Services-Jostens; Allen Family Businesses (The Feed Store and Water Works); Bozard Ford Lincoln; Cady Studios; Chick-fil-A; and United Way of St. Johns County. Many other businesses, civic organizations and individuals also contributed to this event.