The Dade Schools Athletic Foundation hosted its 26th annual Scholar-Athlete luncheon on Monday at the DoubleTree Convention Center Miami Airport Hotel and awarded $37,000 in scholarships to 39 high school students from across the county.
The foundation’s two biggest awards — and a pair of $2,000 scholarships — went to water polo standouts Olvin Villatoro of Miami High and Mourning’s Elaine Lowinger.
“I’m so happy about it,” said Lowinger, a goalie with a 5.38 GPA headed to the California Institute of Technology to study mechanical engineering and eventually work on jet propulsion.
“I’ve been playing sports for so long. A lot of people told me to push academics and I did. But playing water polo and swimming, it really helped me get away from school for awhile and really helped clear my head rather than getting super stressed out over AP exams. I would go to practice and it was really nice. This is a nice surprise.”
Villatoro, captain of the Stingarees’ water polo and swimming teams, is headed to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business to become an entrepreneur. He graduates with a 4.964 GPA.
“A lot of people talk about how hard it is to be an athlete and a great student at the same time,” Villatoro said. “What it really taught me to do was focus on the moment — whether I’m at practice or at school. I think that’s really going to help me later on.”
Both Lowinger and Villatoro will play for their college water polo teams.
A total of 77 student-athletes were honored.
South Dade principal Javier Perez, who lost his legs when he was hit by a drunk driver a year ago, was honored by the Dade Schools Athletic Foundation with its first Courage Award. Next year, the award and a $1,000 scholarship will be given to a student in Perez’s honor.
“It’s a tremendous pleasure to have an award named after me,” Perez said. “Realistically for me, I was put in this situation and I only had two options. Be courageous and survive and be there for my family and my kids, or lay down and die. And that wasn’t an option. Call it courageous, but that’s the one I took.”
Legendary Northwestern girls’ track and cross-country coach Carmen Jackson was named the Cheryl Golden/Dade Schools Athletic Foundation Coach of the Year. The Bulls have won eight consecutive state track titles and 13 overall under Jackson’s leadership.
“We don’t have enough great coaches who stay in the battlefield because the money doesn’t pay anything,” Jackson said. “Once I got into this I knew it was where I needed to be. Yes, I lost a bunch of money . But somebody has to stay in the trenches. If I leave, who is going to be me? It’s not easy. But I do it because for a lot of kids in our city this is their way out and I want to be there to help them through.”
Holmes Braddock, the longest-serving School Board member in the country, served as the host of the event again. Keynote guest speakers included former Palmetto High state champion high jumper Holly Kelly-Fagan and Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Other Student/Athlete scholarship winners include:
▪ Orange Bowl — Gold ($2,500): Molly T. Chepenik (Miami Beach) and Vinson L. Rafael (MAST Academy). Silver ($1,500): Marina Cepeda (Hialeah-Miami Lakes) and Denvil A. Dixon (American). Bronze ($1,000): Alessia M. Ortega (Hialeah Gardens) and Daniel J. Algaze (Hialeah Gardens).
▪ Junior Orange Bowl ($1,000): Briana Morales (Ferguson), Manuel S. Linarte (Cutler Bay). ($500): Alina Mizrahi (Krop) and Andrew W. Uria (Hialeah Miami Lakes). Tennis ($1,000): Emily J. Perretta (South Miami) Ryan M. Floyd (Killian).
▪ Herff Jones ($500): Natalie A. Costero (Goleman) and Kevin W. Henry (Booker T. Washington).
▪ DIBIA Dream ($500): Ruth C. Rocker (North Miami Beach), Pedro A. Igorra (Sunset), Travon J. Brooks (Northwestern), Renaldo I. Flowers Jr. (Jackson), Alexandra Poit (Sunset), Ruth Raymond (Edison).
▪ Kiwanis Club of Miami ($1,000): Madison Chamizo (Southwest) and Faris I. Qubain (Mourning).
▪ Lauren’s Kids ($1,000): Julia Talamo (TERRA) and Damien W. Lindor (Homestead).
Inner City Wrestling Awards ($500): Tsiania N. Jones (Jackson), Richard Mayol (Ronald Reagan/Doral), Guervens Jean (Miami High), Selena J. Berry (Booker T. Washington), Marcus G. Abreu (Coral Park) and Angel D. Chang-Del Cueto (Southwest).
▪ Miami Touchdown Club ($1,000): Victor M. Gomez (Westland).
▪ First Tee Miami Achievement Award/DeLucca Family ($1,000): Abigail L. Chai-Onn (Coral Reef) and Cole L. Castro (South Dade).
▪ BSN Sports ($1,000): Denitria C. Stevens (Norland) and Saul I. Tejeda (Braddock).
▪ Marlins ($1,000): Kaylah I. Clark (Northwestern) and Robert J. Fourqurean (TERRA).
▪ Special Olympics: Alain Figueroa (Homestead).