BRADENTON -- Palmetto's Jourdan McKinnis put her hands over her mouth with surprise after being named the first Outstanding Graduate Award winner in State College of Florida Collegiate School history.
McKinnis, 18, took the top honor before a crowd of 600 who attended the school's first commencement ceremony Thursday night in Neel Performing Arts Center at SCF Bradenton, 5840 26th St. W.
"The Outstanding Graduate Award goes to a person who exhibits superiority in leadership, academic achievement and community involvement," said Donald Bowman, SCF vice president, student affairs. "Jourdan meets all of those lofty standards."
Like all 56 classmates, McKinnis was attracted two years ago by SCFCS, a tuition-free public charter school for grades 6-12 at SCF Bradenton. It gives students an opportunity to earn, simultaneously, a high school diploma from SCFCS and an associate degree from SCF."I want to be a doctor and I loved the idea of getting to earn college credit in high school," McKinnis said. "The biggest challenge in going to the Collegiate School is that the teachers won't baby you. You have to be self-motivated."
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McKinnis attended Palmetto High School in ninth grade and Manatee High in 10th grade.
"I took advantage of everything I could," she said of her two years at SCFCS. "I got free tutoring and found out when teachers had their hours in their offices and got help there, too."
A Phi Theta Kappa All-Florida Academic Team member, McKinnis wa recording secretary for the Nu Zeta chapter of the PTK International Honor Society at SCF Bradenton and president of the SCF Circle K Club, mathematics tutor at the academic resource center, participated in Relay for Life and volunteered as a tennis coach for elementary students at clinics at Terra Ceia Bay Country Club and Tidewater Preserve. She plans to attend the University of Central Florida and later earn a medical degree to become a surgeon.
Two other SCFCS students were recognized: Jacob Sanchez and Andreas Niederer .
Sanchez, a Bradenton resident, collected the Student Appreciation Award for being a dependable role model and consistent professional with a willingness to serve others.
Andreas Niederer, a Lakewood Ranch resident, won the Student Achievement Award for demonstrating consistent growth inside and outside the classroom.
Although she didn't win an award, graduate Claudia Hynds, 19, was recognized by many for her business acumen. Hynds, a former Saint Stephen's Episcopal School student, took college classes in marketing and statistics and started a business while in school called Anna Maria Island Paws, where she walks, pet sits and trains animals.
"On the island, they call her the dog whisperer," said proud father, Michael Hynds.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.