The future of Manatee County is in good hands thanks to nearly 150 high schoolers who are already making great strides toward improving their community.
These students were honored in 15 categories at the 41st annual Golden Herald Awards ceremony Thursday night.
The award categories are art, athletics, business, citizenship, computers & technology, English literature, foreign language, general scholarship, journalism, mathematics, music, science, social science, speech & drama and vocational.
Each of the nominees received a certificate of completion to commemorate the achievement. Honorable mentions earned a plaque and a $300 cash prize, while winners won a $1,500 cash prize.
From working with young children to assisting those affected by Hurricane Irma, each of the 148 nominees is the epitome of leadership and charity.
Roberto Rodriguez III won the Golden Herald award for foreign language and is described by his teachers as “the very essence of dependability.” He assists Spanish-speaking families by sitting in and translating parent-teacher meetings at Lakewood Ranch High School.
Judges said the winner of the athletics award was a "very obvious” decision after one nominee blew away the competition due to her sheer devotion to sports and giving back. Wayneshia Powell, who said she and her mother used to be homeless, earned six varsity letters in three different sports during her time at Southeast High School. She also served as lead attorney in Teen Court for three years.
Powell said she always believed that she would defy the odds and become a successful student and role model for others.
"I didn't grow up from the best home, but it's not about where you come from but where you're going," said Powell, who fought back tears as she took the stage to accept her award. "I believe anybody can work hard and get anything that they want."
This year, the citizenship award was renamed to the Bob Bartz Memorial Award, in honor of the late director of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. The winner of this category, Niky Roblero, "exemplified the spirit of public service."
When Roblero noticed her fellow students weren't performing well in school, she decided to make sure the kids coming after her wouldn't be in the same position. She began working with students at Daughtrey Elementary School to help with their reading and writing skills.
Vernon DeSear, vice president of marketing and business development at Manatee Memorial Hospital, served as emcee of the ceremony and challenged the nominees to continue on their respective paths to greatness.
"On behalf of a grateful community, to all of you young people, keep doing what you're doing," DeSear said. "Continue to make us proud, and if you feel so led, maybe come back and serve in this community after you achieve your further dreams."
Ten Manatee schools participated in the ceremony this year. Each was invited to nominate two students per category. Over the past 41 years, The Bradenton Herald has awarded nearly 5,200 students as part of the Golden Herald awards, which are made possible by local sponsors, including platinum sponsor Manatee Memorial Hospital, and bronze sponsors Keiser University-Sarasota, Mosaic, Regions Bank, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota.
Editor's note: Winners in English & Literature have been corrected in the following list:
Golden Herald Awards
Destiny Summerville, Braden River High School — Art
Wayneshia Powell, Southeast High School — Athletics
Gabryelle Francois, Southeast High School — Business
Niky Roblero, Southeast High School — Citizenship
Karina Alvarez, Palmetto High School — Computer & Technology
Sara Kate Dyson, Braden River High School — English & Literature
Roberto Rodriguez, Lakewood Ranch High School — Foreign Language
Devon Stuart, Southeast High School — General Scholarship
Kiarra Louis, Southeast High School — Journalism
Mateus Urbanski, State College of Florida Collegiate School — Math
Adam Manning, Southeast High School — Music
Colton Lewis, Bradenton Christian High School — Science
Oscar Portillo-Meza, Bayshore High School — Social Science
Jesse Danke, Manatee High School — Speech & Drama
Britanny Hasiak, Southeast High School — Vocational
Yoshua Torralva, Braden River High School — Art
Derrick Randall, Palmetto High School — Athletics
Glenda Vasquez, Southeast High School — Business
Viridiana Gonzalez, Palmetto High School — Citizenship
Scott Fosser, Palmetto High School — Computer & Technology
Abigail Hamm, Palmetto High School — English & Literature
Axel Soto, Braden River High School — Foreign Language
Ashton Johnson, Manatee High School — General Scholarship
Sergio Agustin, Bayshore High School — Journalism
Gabriella Gonzalez, Bradenton Christian — Math
Diana Alatorre-Tapia, Southeast High School — Music
Meredith Moore, St. Stephen's Episcopal School — Science
Kaitlyn Ames, Palmetto High School — Social Science
Lily Meaker, St. Stephen's Episcopal School — Speech & Drama
Madison Waldo, Palmetto High School — Vocational