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Elks present nearly $16,000 in awards, scholarships

— Every May, the Brandon Elks Lodge hosts the Youth Awards Banquet for local students who are productive, caring members of their schools and communities.

Speaker Tony Saladino, coordinator of the 35-year-old Saladino Tournament and physical education teacher at Valrico Elementary “talked about being involved in your community,” said Dorinda Rountree, Elks youth activities chairwoman, “being grounded and paying it forward. He said make sure whatever you do you love and you’ll never go wrong.”

Two students received $4,000 Elks Legacy Awards scholarships ($1,000 per year for four years): James Dartagnan Hutson of Jesuit High and Sarah Subko of Strawberry Crest High.

Mallory C. Hillary, Bloomingdale High, and Catherine Rayburn, Newsome High, won $1,000 Brandon Elks Scholarships for outstanding academic and volunteer work, said Teresa Reeves, scholarship chairwoman for the Brandon Elks Lodge.

The Ladies of the Elks distributed $1,000 scholarships to Kayli Marie Bomar, Strawberry Crest High; Samantha Ann Minic, Riverview High; and James Dartagnan Hutson, Jesuit High.

Three students from Brandon Academy and three from Nativity Catholic School entered the 2014-15 Grand Lodge Americanism Essay Contest. The theme was “What the Pledge of Allegiance Means to Me.” Eighth-grader Milagros Ortiz, Nativity, won $1,500 at the national level.

The eight children who participated in the 2015 Elks Hoop Shoot were recognized, including Juliette “NiNi” Davenport, who made it all the way to the national contest, where she finished fifth in her age group.

Nominees for Teenager of the Month are submitted by their guidance counselors. Letters requesting submissions are sent at the start of each school year to Armwood, Bloomingdale, Brandon, Durant and Newsome high schools. Selections are based on applications, transcripts and letters of recommendation received from the counselors. Each winner gets a certificate and $100 check. The Teenager of the Year gets an additional $100 and certificate.

The 2015 Teenager of the Year award went to Elizabeth Epps, Brandon High School’s valedictorian with a 6.08 grade-point average. She is an AP Scholar with Distinction, band captain, secretary of the National Honor Society, a Girl Scout and recipient of the Anne Frank Humanitarian, Florida State Scholars Science and Elks’ Teenager of the Month awards.

The other Teenagers of the Month were: Ashley Piechowiak, Durant, varsity flag-football captain and member of varsity and all-county soccer teams and honor court; salutatorian Christopher Taylor, Durant, 6.3 grade-point average, varsity tennis and Math Team officer; Tiffany Watson, Brandon, president of the senior class and member of Key Club and National, Science National and American Sign Language honor societies.

Christina Millard, Durant, member of Durant’s Political Action Committee and Mock Trial Team, varsity flag-football player, Thundercats Wrestling Club wrestler and volunteer; Brett Coleman, Durant, National Honor Society member, varsity football player and captain, part-time employee at two jobs, volunteer with over 200 hours.

Chelsea Baker, Durant, first Hillsborough County female varsity high-school baseball team member, academic letter, member of the honor court and a community volunteer; Payton Astin, Durant, president of Student Government, Leo Club vice president, cheerleading captain, DHS Ms. Cougar Body Building Champion, volunteer with more than 375 service hours; and salutatorian Taylor Lineberger, Brandon, volleyball team MVP and captain, Student Government president and secretary, DECA secretary and marketing vice president and USF Federal Credit Union intern.

Branden Wilborn, Brandon, member of the varsity baseball team, National Honor Society, Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society, Honor Court and volunteer; and Kevin O’Hare, Durant, Tampa Property Appraiser’s office intern, Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council field operations director, Florida Future Business Leaders of America state reporter and Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization board member.

These students from the area are busy, outstanding, distinguished, well-versed students, athletes and budding politicians, said Rountree. They are striving to reach their goals and serving others along the way, and the Elks are happy to honor them.

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