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District Seniors Selected as TeamUP Council Award Winners

SARASOTA COUNTY, June 2, 2020 – Each year, the TeamUP Volunteer & Partnership Council, the nonprofit support to Sarasota County Schools’ Office of Community Involvement, awards several high school seniors for exemplary volunteerism and accomplishment in their schools and community. Please join us as we celebrate and recognize this year’s student winners!

Arianna Gonzalez, of North Port High School, has won the $1,000 Lilly Kaighin Community Service Award funded by the Council for creating and implementing an original community service project. In addition to serving as a volunteer Spanish tutor to peers and to Cranberry Elementary School students, coordinating her local Relay for Life event, and serving as class president, she was co-creator of the Community Engaged Youth (CEY) Foundation. This foundation meets two community needs: the lack of North Port opportunities for teen volunteers and the lack of teen involvement, noted as a key issue for the city, by connecting community leaders and organizations with teens for volunteer opportunities. As a result, more young people have found volunteer opportunities and the city has more teen involvement.

Pine View School’s Marguerite Andrich was selected by the Council for their $1,000 Bette Woodson Award for demonstrating outstanding commitment to providing service within our community. Based on the difficulties she faced as her family moved around the country multiple times, Marguerite was sensitive to the challenges children in foster care faced when moving from placement to placement with their belongings in plastic bags. In response, she established the Bag Up the Love program that provides children and teens entering foster care with new duffel bags filled with age-appropriate school and art supplies, toiletries, a stuffed dog, and a personalized postcard. As a result, Bag Up the Love makes the transition to foster care more respectful for hundreds of children and teens.

The Council selected Jillian Alexander, of Venice High School, for the $1,000 Teeja Service through the Arts Award – sponsored by Stage Door Studios’ owner Jill Athridge – to encourage community service involvement through the arts. Prompted by her passion for the arts, Jillian is a founding member of the Venice Theatre Youth Production Company with a focus on creating community interest and development and serving as secretary and a costumer. As a result of her dedication, Jillian has help provide a way for more Venice community youth to be involved in what she describes as “the incredible world of theatre arts”.

Sponsored by Dr. David Freeman and his wife Tiffany Caldwell of Freeman Orthodontics, the Council selected two winners for the $500 Freeman Inspiration AwardZoe Riggs and Cecily Wood-Barron.

  • Despite physical challenges throughout several years, Zoe will graduate third out of 507 students in the North Port High School class of 2020. She is captain of the swim team and of the tennis team from which was awarded Most Charismatic Athlete. Additionally, she is the historian of the Mock Trial Club, earned awards for the school’s Academic Olympics, is a member of National Honor Society, and received 1st and 2nd place awards in the Bobcat Art Market. Zoe, through her grit and determination, has inspired others to see that a major setback can be overcome.
  • After years of hard work and dedication pursuing her dream career in professional dance, Booker High School’s Cecily-Wood Baron suddenly found her career plans were no longer open to her due to a permanent injury. While struggling to overcome the demise of her lifelong dream, Cecily discovered a related opportunity and is developing the skills to analyze movement and to become a choreographer. Cecily’s management of her disappointment has inspired others to see that one door closing may open another that may be even better. 

Sarasota County students who will be seniors in the 2020-21 school year are encouraged to apply for these annual awards! Applications will be due in February 2021, and winners awarded in April. Application information will be available in October 2020 on the Council’s website (www.teamupvpcouncil.org) or from high school guidance counselors.