Search for Best & Brightest students kicks off

From the Tallahassee Democrat

The search for the 2019 best and brightest high school seniors in Leon County is on.

The Best & Brightest  Awards program is now accepting applications from high school seniors, who will have a chance to claim a share of $55,000 in total scholarships across 15 categories of scholastic achievement and community service. In order to qualify, students are encouraged to submit applications to their school guidance counselor before the Jan. 31 deadline.

“These important awards are well-deserved by stellar local students who have demonstrated great accomplishment academically and sincere commitment to community service,” said Ron Sachs, CEO of Sachs Media Group and founder and sponsor of the Best & Brightest Awards, in a statement. “The example set by our ‘Best & Brightest’ young leaders is an inspiration for our entire community about the value of giving back.”

The program kicked off its annual recognition event Wednesday with a gathering of key school leaders at Hotel Duval for a breakfast featuring public and private school principals and guidance counselors from across the county.

Since the creation of the Best & Brightest Awards, 1,815 students from Leon County have received $623,000 in scholarship support. Major scholarships are awarded to three countywide winners in each of the 15 different categories. First place winners receive a $1,500 scholarship; runners-up receive $750; honorable mention honorees receive $500. The program also awards $100 cash scholarships to all school-based winners through Envision Credit Union, the program’s premier sponsor.

Home-schooled and Virtual School students are eligible to enter the program, joining public and private school students chosen by school principals, guidance counselors and teachers. The categories are art; athletics; business; career/technical; drama and performing arts; English and language arts; foreign language; journalism and media production; leadership; mathematics; music; public speaking; science and health; social science and technology.

Students are also judged based on their school involvement and leadership, and a special focus is placed on community service. Recipients of a Best & Brightest Award are students who have gone above and beyond the minimum community service hours required by their school, and have shown that they truly understand the importance of giving back to their community on a regular basis.

After faculty and staff identify them, school-based winners will undergo a rigorous review and interview process, conducted on March 2 by a judging panel of community leaders. The judges will take numerous factors into account, including achievements in the individual field of study but also interview skills, overall academic success and a demonstrated track record of community service. Through this, three top students will be selected as the countywide winner, runner-up and honorable mention in each category.

“Each year we receive an incredible amount of quality applications,” said Laura Rogers, program director at World Class Schools of Leon County and coordinator of the Best & Brightest Awards program. “While these students are achieving academically they also concentrate on their passions through creativity, compassion and community service. These awards stand out because they highlight the best of the best in many different areas, rather than focusing on one dimension of a student’s life.”

For the eighth year running, eighth-grade students, including those who are home-schooled and Virtual School students, also will have an opportunity to be honored as the “Best and Brightest” of their age group, through a prompted essay contest. The winner will receive a $500 award, runner-up $250 and honorable metnion honoree $100.