The Matlacha Hookers announced the winners of the "Hooked on Education" scholarships at its monthly meeting Monday night, May 14, at the Sandy Hook, which included a presentation for six students who received $1,000.
"The Matlacha Hookers are delighted to have the opportunity to support these young adults," said D.J. Ruscik, Matlacha Hookers Madame Dj vu. "We're confident that each of them has a bright future and wish them all the best."
Those students include Nancy Cote, Evan Berlanti, Morgan Benjamin, Brandi Schulte, Shayna Talbott and Ronald Buckley.
Six students received a $1,000 “Hooked on Education” scholarship from the Matlacha Hookers Monday night at Sandy Hook. Those students include, back row, Evan Berlanti, Nancy Cote and Ronald Buckley; and front row, Brandi Schulte, Morgan Benjamin and Shayna Talbott.
The scholarship held a very special meaning for Cote.
"It means I can finally graduate," she said. "It seals the deal and I will have money for classes."
Cote has three classes left to take before graduating in January from DeVry University with a degree in technology management with a focus on human resources. She will be the first in her family to have a bachelor's degree.
"The scholarship means I won't have student debt," she said. "I can go to school and focus on passing my last three classes and not worry how to pay for this."
Cote has been cleaning houses on the island, so she could pay for the classes.
Once she graduates she plans on coming back to Pine Island to help the farm workers here as a way to give back to the community.
"I am very grateful to all the Hookers and Mrs. Sciple is very nice," Cote said. She is grateful there are people like that.
She said she feels that Pine Island is behind her to graduate.
"It is a wonderful place to live," Cote said
Berlanti, a senior that is home-schooled and a student at Edison State College as part of the dual enrollment program, also received the scholarship. He will be attending Palm Beach Atlantic University to study pre-law, as well as writing public policy.
"I am really looking forward to it," Berlanti said about attending the honors program.
He checked out the campus after he was invited and fell in love with the school.
Berlanti said he is excited to go to school because it provides him with the opportunity to see the world and make something of himself.
The scholarship means everything to him because it means the ability to go to college.
"The fact that I got it is a real honor," Berlanti said.
He said he feels really fortunate to have grown up in the community.
Benjamin, a recent graduate of Cape Coral High School, will use the scholarship she earned at Florida Southern College. She said she chose the college because it reminded her of home.
The scholarship, she said, means she can go to college.
"The financial side of it really helps," Benjamin said.
She plans on studying criminology because it is so fascinating with a minor in psychology. Benjamin said she wants to understand the minds of the criminals, along with helping to catch them.
"I'm excited about the college experience and ready to get started," she said.
Schulte, who has been a recipient of the "Hooked on Education" scholarship before, is a junior at the University of South Florida where she is studying criminology and sociology. The Mariner High School graduate said she chose criminology and sociology as a major because she loves helping people out, as well as figuring them out.
"It's been challenging and successful," Schulte said of her studies at USF. So far she said she has earned all As and Bs.
When asked what her dream job entails, she said, smiling, being the head of Homeland Security.
"Prove to be the biggest success in life," Schulte said when her dream becomes a reality because she would be doing something that she loves.
Once she graduates from college she said she hopes to come back to the area to work.
She said she heard about the scholarship because her mom used to be a Hooker, as well as through community involvement.
"It means being able to support myself independently," Schulte said of the scholarship. "It is a great stress reliever."
She said she would like to thank the Hookers, not just for her, but for the other students on the island, for the opportunity to obtain the scholarship because they are supporting their dreams financially.
Talbott, who graduated from Ida Baker High School on Saturday, will be studying international relations at Florida State University in the spring where she will continue her ROTC studies. She said she will be attending Tallahassee Community College in the fall.
Talbott was named Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program brigade commander, the No. 1 cadet in all of the Lee County School District, for the 2011-2012 school year.
At the beginning of her senior year she began looking up scholarships, along with local scholarships and came across the "Hooked on Education" scholarship.
"It is really exciting," she said about being a recipient of the scholarship. "I feel that I am more prepared for college without having to worry about some of these expenses because every little bit helps."
Talbott was selected as a Congressional Page by Congressman Connie Mack for the U.S. House of Representatives her junior year in Washington, D.C., for six months, which helped her decide what she wanted to do after college. While there she took an international relations class that sparked her interest.
Talbott said that class made her interested in seeing what else is going on in the world as opposed to living in the United States.
"I wanted to broaden what I know and my knowledge," she said.
Talbott wanted to thank the Hookers for providing her with scholarship.
"I appreciate it and I will be applying again next year," she said.
Buckley, who graduated from Mariner High School this past weekend, also received a scholarship from the Hookers. He said he learned about the scholarship from the Pine Island Public Library, as well as when he was volunteering at the Beacon of H.O.P.E.
"Financially it means I will be able to afford housing," he said.
The scholarship also tells him what the community is really about.
"The fact that someone as nice as the Matlacha Hookers is willing to give to me when I have given nothing to them that fact makes me want to give back to the community," Buckley said.
Although he is undecided about what major he wants to pursue at Florida Gulf Coast University, his interest lies in psychology.
"It is interesting to understand how everyone around you works," Buckley said.