When Brandyn Lanston and his family moved from Arkansas to Fort Myers a few years ago they had to bear the cost of moving Lanston’s cancer-stricken stepfather as well.
While the expense was worth it for Rick Dunn to spend his final months with his family, it had a lasting financial impact on the family.
Lanston, of Dunbar High, was one of five $20,000 scholarship recipients from Lee County honored for their achievement in the classroom, on the athletic fields and in the community Monday at a banquet at the Cohen Center on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University.From moving from couch to couch to going a month at a time without electricity, the poverty Lanston spent the last few years growing up in shaped him into a high school senior with big dreams. The Hillmyer-Tremont Foundation ensured Lanston will have every opportunity to pursue them.
“I don’t want to be forgotten,” said Lanston, who played on the Tigers football team and holds the school record in the pole vault. “ … I want to make a mark. I want to change people’s lives.”
He plans to attend Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland and hopes to become a bio-nanotechnology engineer.
Spending a lot of his time in the library, he brought home mounds of science-related reading material.
“When we didn’t have power I read in the light,” Lanston said.
At 5-foot-5, he wasn’t anyone’s version of the prototypical football player, but he embraced his size and vowed to work harder than his teammates.
“I realized I was going to be me,” Lanston said.
Three of the honorees made it a point to recognize the sacrifices made by their parents.
South Fort Myers volleyball player Diana De Castro, who is headed to the University of Central Florida to study biology, was moved to tears during her speech and when she received the first installment of her scholarship.
Her parents will have all four of their children in college at the same time next fall, but one less college tuition to worry about.
“I wanted to hand the check to them right there,” said De Castro, who has aspirations of working in the medical field. “They’ve done so much for me.”
Riverdale three-sport athlete Daniel Malivert’s parents didn’t attend many of his football or basketball games because they were working. However, when he really needed something such as school supplies or football cleats they never hesitated to work overtime to make it happen.
“They showed me what hard work and dedication means,” said Malivert, who’ll attend the Florida Institute of Technology and study either mechanical or aerospace engineering.
Cape Coral pitcher Makenzie Buss dedicated her scholarship to her mother, who drove her up and down the East Coast for softball tournaments and picked up extra jobs on the weekends to fund them. The three-time News-Press first-team all-area selection will continue her athletic career at Jacksonville University and major in biology as a part of the school’s pre-dental program.
“It’s more than just money,” said Buss, who sports a weighted 5.01 grade point average. “It’s nice to be recognized for your accomplishments. It’s showing off without having to show off.”
Lehigh’s Wadley Pierre, a football player and holder of three school track and field records, left Haiti at six years old, not knowing any English to live with a family guardian. He transformed himself into a model student with a 4.37 weighted GPA in the Cambridge program who has an insatiable thirst to learn.
“I believe that knowledge is power,” Pierre said.
Beyond his dream of attending an Ivy League school for undergraduate where he will major in business, marketing or accounting, he hopes to attend law school. Hillmyer-Tremont provided him a solid start.
“I know when the time comes the man up above has a plan for me,” Pierre said.
IN COLLIER COUNTY: 13 students named finalists for Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete award