MANATEE -- Three State College of Florida Collegiate School mothers got an early Mother's Day gift Friday when their children won top awards during graduation at the Neel Performing Arts Center.
A beaming Sheryl Styer came on stage to take photos of her son, Carlyle Styer, 17, who won the Graduate Appreciation Award at the five-year-old school, commonly known as SCFCS.
Rosario Vigil, a bit shy, stood in a corner of the stage and could not stop smiling as her son, John Vigil, 16, the youngest graduate in his class, held the Graduate Achievement Award.
Most excited of all was Annie Wilson, whose daughter, Nelly Wilson, 18, was presented the Outstanding Graduate Award.
The women all raved about SCFCS, an innovative, tuition-free public charter school for grades 6-12 that gives students an opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school diploma from the Collegiate School and an associate degree from State College of Florida.
The three award-winners were among 50 students who received their diplomas before a crowd of 300 Friday morning and were eligible to receive associate degrees from State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota later
at the SCF graduation at the Van Wezel.
Annie Wilson recalled her daughter, Nelly, at age 2, standing by the front door in her diapers, hand on her hip, saying, "Let's go!"
Wilson doesn't hesitate to transform things she thinks need changing, said State College of Florida President Carol Probstfeld when presenting Wilson with the school's prestigious award.
Wilson realized that the Collegiate School was so accelerated that there wasn't time for much more than academics.
"A lot of us wanted to retain a high-school experience which, in college atmosphere, had dissipated," Wilson said.
She created the Student Leadership Team and chaired the school's first prom. She said she has become a student of time management, something that is rare for an 18-year-old.
"Younger people struggle with time management, but I had to master it with so much on my plate," Wilson said. "Now I will let some things go and put in time with others. I've learned to prioritize."
Wilson will enter the University of Florida as a junior. She is on track to receive a bachelor's degree in finance from UF in two years and is entering an accelerated master's degree program at UF.
"I will be able to graduate in two and a half years with a bachelor's in finance and a master's in international business," Wilson said.
"He was born premature," Sheryl Styer said of her son, Carlyle, who is following his own, carefully set-up plan to be president of the United States when he is 35. "But by 2 years old, he could carry on a political discussion."
Styer said that while she is proud that her son's IQ is in the genius range, she is more proud that he is kind.
"Carylye is compassionate, funny, charming and one of the most-personable people I know," his mom said.
As a member of the Model United Nations team, he was the first SCF team to win the Outstanding Delegation Award at the Southern Regional Model United Nation's Conference. He is a three-time winner of the Outstanding Delegate Award at the Model UN conference.
Styer, who plans to go to law school at Harvard or Yale before running for president, also contributed his knowledge of American history and pop culture to SCF's first Brain Bowl Team to win state and national championships.
"I'm a political nerd," Carlyle Styer said.
In 2008, when he was 11, he campaigned for Barack Obama as part of a phone bank and got to meet Hillary Clinton.
Now he is supporting Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential hopeful.
"I believe Bernie has a revolutionary vision for the country," Styer said.
Of his own presidential platform, Styer said: "I would like to see more education funding and equality of gender in pay. I also don't believe in the two-party system. I don't plan to represent one party. Partisanship in our country is tearing us apart."
A scientist waiting to bloom
John Vigil began the Collegiate School in the eighth grade.
"This is a happy ending to a story," Rosario Vigil said. "John was a bright child and I knew it. When we found the Collegiate School, he found the opportunity to fly."
John Vigil said his passion is "anything science, especially biology. I can talk about biology all day. I love medicine and doctors. I see myself doing medicine. I don't see myself anywhere else." He hopes to contribute to the medical field.
"I could invent an alternative way to treat infections that doesn't involve a lot of antibiotics," he said
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond