PAHOKEE — City Manager Chandler Williamson named the first recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarship at the City Commission’s regular meeting last week. The award — one that he initiated with his own money — went to a young lady who just graduated from Pahokee High School in May, will be attending the University of Central Florida and says it’s her dream to return to her hometown with a medical degree that she hopes to use to care for fellow Glades residents.
He told listening commissioners, those in the chamber and others watching via the city’s YouTube meeting broadcast:
“It gives me really great pleasure to talk about this scholarship. I thought this was something that was needed here in the City of Pahokee … but it’s rewarding for myself to give back to this community in any possible way I can beyond this administrative role that I serve. And I’m hoping that this Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarship annual award will be supported by our churches in this community. Tonight it’s a $1,200 award that’s going to a graduating Pahokee High senior from who’s on her way to college, but I’m hoping that next year, it’s $2,400.”
Mr. Williamson added, “We had some very competitive graduating seniors who applied for this first-time award, but Obriana Bent really stood out.” Explaining that part of the application was an essay written by applicants about who they are, their hopes and dreams for their future careers and where they expect life to take them after high school, he finished up by quoting Miss Bent’s submission listing her many extracurricular activities — including participation in Dream Catchers, speech and debate, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, student government, soccer, volleyball, track and field, plus community service for Alzheimer’s patients and at local nursing homes.
“This is what she said,” the city manager related: “‘Dr. King never gave up no matter how many people were against him and the obstacles that were in his way. … Helping the ones around me and making my community a better place gives me satisfaction, and I will continue to do so over the years. It gives me great joy to help people that are in need. My career goal is to become a psychiatrist or a trauma surgeon, which will allow me to come back to the Glades and volunteer at schools informing kids, or do much more important work in the health-care field for our residents and citizens here in the Glades.’
“Finally,” Mr. Williamson concluded, “she said, ‘I have a dream that one day, I will become successful, and no one can ever take that away from me.’”
With that, he called her up to the podium to receive her scholarship check, and everyone in the room broke into applause.
Miss Bent expressed her happiness in a clear, measured voice, surely masking her excitement: “Even though I already knew I won the scholarship, it’s still a shock to me, and I’m very grateful to be standing up here receiving this. It will help me a lot in college, and I will definitely come back to improve Pahokee. I have a lot of family here, so it wouldn’t be right not coming back. So again, I want to thank everyone who’s standing up here with me and supporting me through my new journey. Thank you!”