The 15th Annual Best & Brightest Awards Ceremony took place on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, at the Leon County School’s Aquilina Howell Building to award scholarships to well-deserved high school graduates for their leadership skills, academic accomplishments and community-service involvement. To abide by public safety protocols, the Ceremony was held remotely and viewed live on Comcast Channel 23 and Facebook. The exciting announcements in real-time still offered an experience of surprise for the students, families, and school administration and teachers.
The awards have expanded since their first year in 2006. About 80 students were given scholarships during the program’s inaugural year. This anniversary year 152 seniors were selected from local public and private high schools to be finalists in each of the 15 categories.
Laura Rogers, Program Director of the Best & Brightest said, “The schools select their most qualified students to go through a rigorous application and interview process by a panel of local professionals with years of experience in the field. Out of all the finalists, three are chosen to be the winners of each category, for a total of 45 winners. Each winner receives a $1,500 scholarship and a trophy. Runners-up and honorable mentions receive scholarships of $750 and $500, respectively, and trophies. All other finalists receive a $100 scholarship in recognition of their superlative accomplishments.”
Envision Credit Union has underwritten the scholarships for this program since its inception, gifting over half a million dollars in scholarships to these commendable students. Dr. Jim Croteau, Chair of the Board of Envision Credit Union, said “Supporting this program is at the core of who we are as a credit union. Our philosophy of ‘people helping people’ is achieved by funding important programs like the Best & Brightest, which directly impacts the lives of these well-deserving students.”
Ron Sachs, President and CEO of Sachs Media Group and creator of the Best & Brightest Awards, said since its launch in 2006, the program has recognized 2,566 students for their contributions to the Tallahassee community and given over $739,000 in scholarships.
“This program exists to recognize, respect, and reward outstanding high school senior leaders for their academic success and earnest commitment to service,” said Sachs. “The other mission of the program is to inspire younger students to embrace the example of every year’s group of ‘Best & Brightest’ leaders and to make service a part of their own ethics and culture for life.”
The 8th Grade Essay contest honored 45 students who were the top three ranking essayist from their middle schools. Three students’ essays were selected as the top winners who wrote about their experiences on helping others in the community. Those top winners received $100 to $500 and all essayists receive a certificate of recognition.
During the event a special award was given – The Spirit of the Best & Brightest Award. Maxance Ngnepeiba, a Rickards High School student and the Honorable Mention recipient for the Public Speaking category was awarded The Spirit Award this year which included an additional $2,500 in scholarship funds.
“At such a young age, Max is already an accomplished servant leader and thoughtful person in his local community,” said Clay Ingram, CEO of Volunteer Florida. “We strive to cultivate and celebrate that kind of engagement at Volunteer Florida, and therefore, we are proud to present him with the Excellence in Volunteerism Award.”
The Excellence in Volunteerism Award is the only statewide volunteer recognition award; it is awarded to volunteers and organizations who go above and beyond in service to their community.