The Sophisticated Gents of Florida, The African American Club of The Villages Distribute $92,000 to Local High School Graduates to Attend College

Ondre Ryan and Mom
Kyra Miller, Imani Linzy

By Louis C Ward

THE VILLAGES – Imani Linzy, a FAMU sophomore, wants to be the next governor of Florida.

E’mia Jones, a Leesburg High School graduate, plans to become a dentist.

Victor Nygaard will pursue chemical engineering at a Florida State University.

Ondre Ryan is going into sports management to become a physical therapist.

Louis Hackett likes math so his career goal is to be an astrophysicist.

These students represent a cross section of thirty-two high school graduates, and ten students already attending college who shared $92,000 in college scholarships provided by The African American Club of The Villages (TAAC) and the Sophisticated Gents of Florida (SGOF) at their 11TH Annual Scholarship Awards Luncheon Saturday, June 1, 2024.

Both civic organizations have been providing scholarships to students attending Lake Weir, Leesburg, The Villages Charter, and Wildwood Middle High Schools for more than 10 years. More than $440,000 in scholarships has been given to graduates since the beginning of the scholarship program. The scholarships are given directly to the student so that they may use the money at their own discretion. Although only a grade point average of 2.5 is required to apply for the scholarship, most students achieved high GPA’s as high as 4.0 and a few students hit above 5.0.

The well attended event of parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, loved ones and others was held at the Eisenhower Recreation Center on Buena Vista Blvd in The Villages, Florida.

Rhondricka Gordon, Ondre’s Mom, was astatic about her youngest child graduating from high school and receiving a scholarship from TAAC to attend McDougle Technical Institute.

“I am so proud of Ondre’s “go get it” attitude and for his persistence. I’m a single parent, and Ondre literally never asks for anything, he just goes and get it,” a content Ms. Gordon said.

Otis Lane, a SGOF member, who has worked with the GENTS/TAAC Friendship Golf Tournament and the Scholarship Awards Program, said, “I was impressed by the ethnicity and rainbow of cultural integration of the scholarship recipients.  These students are part of a future generation that will make America live up to its potential freedom for all to reach their dreams.”

In her opening remarks, Lila Debra Stevenson, President, TAAC, said, “I am so very impressed with the caliber of students in the Class of 2024! Several are graduating with associate degrees.  The group was quite diverse and well rounded.  Many of the recipients are the first in their families to go to college.”

During the well-organized scholarship luncheon, each of the 32 scholarship awardees were able to identify themselves, reveal the colleges they were going to attend in the 2024 fall semester, and briefly discuss their grade point averages and career goals.

The rising cost of attending college shows why less than 5 students will attend colleges or universities out of the state. Most of the 2024 scholarship recipients will attend Florida State universities.  Student career goals ran the gamut from physicians to lawyers to computer science to veterinarians to chefs to business entrepreneurs to neuroscience to journalism and more.

TAAC and SGOF scholarships ‘are funded primarily by sponsorships and donations from local businesses, club members, and friends to The Friendship Golf Tournament Scholarship Fundraiser and donations directly to the scholarship funds of both TAAC and The Gents.”

“The Scholarship Awards Luncheon is the culmination of Scholarship Committee volunteers working with the local schools to recruit, mentor, support, advise, and select deserving graduating seniors.”

“We have come a long way in the past 11 years…the largest diverse students from our four target area schools as indicated by 32 seniors and 10 continuing college students receiving $92,000 from our largest donors of individuals and organizations. A fantastic outpouring of support from the Tri- County constituents. It was a tremendous success,” stated Vernon Haley, President of SGOF.

Ms. Stevenson, TAAC President, and former principal, shared this nugget with the scholarship recipients: “Your Good, better and Best. Never rest until your good is better and your better is best.”