By Joshua Winata
The Cove Herald
What can $5 million buy – maybe a couple dozen houses or several hundred new cars?
For seniors at Copperas Cove High School, that hefty sum represents the goal of a college education. This year, students were awarded more than $5 million in scholarship money, an achievement recognized at a special ceremony Tuesday at Lea Ledger Auditorium.
"It's a big night for Copperas Cove," said CCHS teacher John Gallen, who served as the master of ceremonies. "It represents big dollars."
Awards came from a variety of sources and illustrated the diverse talents of the student body, starting with the winners of athletic scholarships.
Star Bulldawg quarterback Robert Griffin, who graduated early and began attending Baylor University in January, was in town to be honored for his football scholarship along with his teammates Troy Vital (Idaho State University, University of North Texas, University of Texas at El Paso), Jerry Hill (Texas Lutheran University), Sean Robertson (Blinn College), Anthony Harry Gonzalez (Blinn College) and Pati Jhonven (Howard Payne University.)
Anthony Cotton won a track scholarship to Southern University at Baton Rouge, but the women dominated the remainder of the athletics. Nine girls claimed soccer scholarships; track star Tye'sha McFarlin, who is attending Texas A&M Corpus Christi, won two scholarships; and Lauren Cox, Shacoria Cooper and Nicole Canales were each honored for powerlifing, basketball and volleyball, respectively.
Academic accomplishments were equally impressive. Valedictorian Elizabeth Olds, whose name was called 14 times, won the most scholarships of the evening, including the Honor Graduate presented by school district Superintendent Dr. Rose Cameron. Olds plans on attending Stephen F. Austin University and double majoring in business and special education.
"I feel better about going to college knowing that I can focus more on academics than on financial problems," she said.
Brothers Joseph and Jeremiah Gorman were neck-in-neck with scholarships, with both accepting awards from St. Mary's University. The duo also received four-year Reserve Officer Training Corps Army Scholarships.
A number of representatives from the community came to the ceremony especially to distribute scholarships award through their respective organizations. Some groups that organized scholarships included the Morning Exchange Club, Noon Exchange Club, ACE, Omega Psi Phi, Rotary Club, Lions Club, League of United Latin American Citizens, Knights of Columbis and the Welch Foundation. Students also received money through their student organizations like Health Occupations Students of America, Pride of Cove Band, Thespian Club and Future Farmers of America.
However, the big money of the night came from military awards and scholarships. The biggest prize of the night went to Jennifer Sandifer, who received a full ride to the United States Naval Academy valued at $351,000. She also received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy but turned it down.
The application process for the military academies required extensive interviews, physical tests, essays and a congressional nomination.
"It's amazing," she said. "I can just go to school and not have to worry about the money behind it."
Her parents said they never doubted their daughter's abilities but were surprised only later once they discovered how competitive the process was – less than 10 percent are accepted to the naval academy.
"She's always excelled at everything. She gets it from her mom's side I think," said Jennifer's father Kelly Sandifer, who serves as the 4th Infantry Division rear detachment deputy commander. "I'm really proud of her."
In addition, seniors Shaye Haver and Jordan Locke received appointments to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Barbra Terry was appointed to the United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School. Dawn Boardman, Shaye Haver, Ashley Lesher and Jenna Calquhoun each received scholarships through ROTC.
The hefty sums of money didn't come without hard work on the part of the students. Senior Caitlin Streckel, who will have tuition for her theater studies at Stevens College in Missouri covered, said she visited the career center almost every day to look for new scholarships. She said applied for at least 30 of them and received about half that amount.
"I'm happy that I got them. College is so expensive these days," said Streckel, who won scholarships for athletics, leadership, academics and theater. She was also named the Morning Exchange Club Youth of the Year.
CCHS Principal Dr. Carol Saxenian expressed her pride in the students, who exceeded last year's scholarship totals by about $1 million.
"That's an incredible amount of money," Saxenian said.
Campus administrators also took time to acknowledge the parents and community partnerships with local civic organizations.
"We cannot thank them enough because we couldn't do this tonight and award you money if you didn't have people like this doing this for you," Saxenian said.
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7476.