Charter school seniors haul in scholarships

Elijah Schott, of Belleview, and Kaitlyn Vlasto, of Summerfield, are among the top scholarship winners at The Villages High School. They’ve already earned associate degrees at Lake-Sumter State College.

Community groups awarded more than $340,000 in scholarships to graduates of The Villages High School. The total is made up of $203,500 through the Buffalo Scholarship Foundation and $137,342 from local organizations. “The hope is they’ll be able to do something for not only themselves but their families as well,” said Jim Zurak, of the Village of Springdale, executive producer of Dollars for Scholars Productions. UF Health The Villages Hospital Auxiliary Foundation was another top donor, awarding more than $91,000 in scholarships and financial aid this year. That total includes $64,000 over four years to eight graduating high school seniors in Sumter County and more than $27,000  to 17 employees to improve their skills and certifications, which helps both those employees and the hospital, said Gary Kadow, chairman of the foundation scholarship programs.

The Villages Dollars for Scholars and the hospital foundation each have provided more than $500,000 in scholarships.

The foundation began its scholarship program in 2015 and is now putting together an internship program in conjunction, Kadow said

The Dollars for Scholars chapter, part of Scholarship America Inc., formed in 2007, said President Joyce Gillete, of the Village of Tamarind Grove.

Dollars for Scholars is giving eight scholarships to VHS graduates this year and five for Wildwood Middle High School graduates, as well as three to returning college students, totaling $51,000.

“This means a lot,” scholarship recipient and VHS senior Timothy Wallace Harding said. “I come from a large family.  We need a lot of help to go to college. It will help me start out strong.”

VHS senior Remington Draney, who also was captain of the Golden Girls, was among this year’s Dollars for Scholars winners as well as winning a four-year scholarship from the Hospital Auxiliary Foundation.

Draney, Kaitlyn Vlasto and Elijah Schott are among the top scholarship winners, totaling more than $14,000 each, among VHS’ Class of 2020.

All three are among 46 VHS seniors who already earned their associate’s degrees from Lake-Sumter State College through dual enrollment.

Draney plans a double major in psychology and physiology at Florida State University to become an occupational therapist.

“I’m so thankful for this scholarship,” she said after the Dollars for Scholars presentation outdoors at Lake Sumter Landing this week. “It will support me in college and allow me to focus on my studies.”

Vlasto plans to become a medical doctor and is headed to the University of North Florida, where she will double major in biomedical sciences and health sciences with a minor in public health.

She said she is very grateful after working hard all four years of high school, and the scholarship will enable her to follow through on her goals.

“I knew I needed to get something for my college dreams to come true, but wasn’t expecting so much,” Vlasto said.

She played three sports, was a leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was in three honor societies and Rotary’s Interact Club, which may have helped her win scholarships.

“I tried to become as well-rounded as possible,” Vlasto said.

Schott was captain of the tennis team this year and president of the National Honor Society. He also was in both Interact and Key Club and the Literacy Crusaders.

He plans to go to the University of Florida to double major in electrical and mechanical engineering and minor in physics with the goal of a career in amusement rides and roller coaster design.

“I’m really happy that I’ve been given all these opportunities,” Schott said. “I’m very blessed.”

He said he and a lot of other amazing students put in a lot of hard work.

“My dad got laid off last year,” he said. “I hope I won’t have to put any burdens on my family.

Staff writer Dayna Straehley can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5408, or