More than 90 students were recognized for their exemplary character at the 14th annual American Youth Character Awards (AYCA) Banquet held Thursday, May 1 at Anastasia Baptist Church.
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, Beacon of Hope Christian School and St. Joseph Academy. Students invited their parents as well as a mentor who has served as a character role model for them.
Criteria for the AYCA awards is 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 peers. 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 Jeremiah Bauer, Jacob Coley, Caleb Grantham and Surina Samaroo of Bartram Trail High School; Jordan Chasteen, Hank Mengel, Bria Pickett and Rachel Sizemore of Creekside High School; Joshua Antal and Kyle McCreath of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind; Stephen Giannelli Jr., Rebecca King, Mikayla Page and Xynacious Ware of Pedro Menendez High School; William Duncan, Madeline Leibin, Kevin Andrew Linder and Madison Stenzel of Nease High School; Haley Baxter, Sean O’Linn, Alexandra Schur and Reed Waldenmaier of Ponte Vedra High School; Mercy Adeshola, Molly Clukey, Savannah Perry and Victoria Regan of St. Augustine High School; Kenisa Warren of St. Johns Technical High School; Anna Bonura of St. Joseph Academy; Skyler Kavanaugh of St. Johns Virtual School; and Robert Hamilton and Brett Perry of Beacon of Hope Christian School.
The junior nominees were as follows:
Bartram Trail High School – Brandon Chiedo, Kyle Dean, Clare Difato, Michael Frick, Alyssamarie Jessen, Jacob Mlynarczyk, Kara Stanaland, Dorthea West
Creekside High School – Hunter Clary, Rachel Gupton, Caroline Kim, Abby Murphy, Alexander Orta, Austin Perkins, Youry Pierre-Louis and Sydney Van Dyke
Florida School for the Deaf and Blind – Edward Cicio and Wes Homewood
Pedro Menendez High School – Jenna Abell, Sarah Cavacini, Amy Costeira, Benjamin Damus, Emily Kayworth, Savannah LeFors, Ivan Martinez and Summer Perritt
Nease High School – Alexandra Blackwell, Katelyn Dyal, John Kahlbaugh, Laura Londono, Patrick Meier, Mikayla Mitchell, Ross Rabalais and Justin Swicegood
Ponte Vedra High School – Alex Barnett, Justine Binkley, Rachel Bowersox, Quinn Carey, Mathew Norton, Matthew Plunkett, Kelly Roy, Mary Grace Scully
St. Augustine High School – Emily Bennett, Tresca Esguerra, Sarah Lewis, Luke Mahan, Tiausha Oxendine, Justin Roberts, Hollis Washburn and Travien Wright
St. Johns Technical High School – Keyjah Daniels
St. Joseph Academy – Paige Sharp and Thompson Hinman
St. Johns Virtual School – William Cromar
Nine years ago the law firm of Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch, P.A. established the David Macaulay Mathis Memorial Pursuing 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 Trevon Bryant of Pedro Menendez High School. The other school finalists were Hannah Giangaspro of Bartram Trail High School, Allison Davanzo of Creekside High School, Kyle McCreath of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, Elena Castello of Nease High School, Avery Geehr of Ponte Vedra High School, Robert Gober IV of St. Augustine High School and Tyler Thibault 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. Jacob Coley of Bartram Trail 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: Beaver Toyota, Jacksonville Jaguars, Northrop Grumman, The Bailey Group, Ameris Bank, Leonard’s, RGS Jostens, Flagler Hospital, Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch P.A., Allen Family Businesses (The Feed Store and Water Works), Chick-Fil-A, and United Way of St. Johns County. Many other businesses, civic organizations and individuals also contributed to this event.