TAMPA — Riverview High senior Jessica Beavers walked into Moffitt Cancer Center's Stabile Research Building last week uncertain of her chances of winning one of the inaugural KIDZ STEAM Role Model Awards.
Yet from all accounts, Beavers reacted with remarkable cool after one of the presenters, Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, called her name as a recipient of a $1,000 scholarship aimed at promoting future leaders in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Beavers, the Spoto High salutatorian, will attend the University of Florida and major in dietetics.
"I'm very excited because you get recognized for being a role model and I think that's really important in the community," said Beavers, who credited the Powerstories program and its founder, Fran Powers, as a mentor.
Four others joined Beavers as recipients of the inaugural award: Freedom High's Benjamin Bryant (University of South Florida), Steinbrenner High's Carlos Carrasquillo (Florida), Robinson High's Sarah Jennewein (Dartmouth) and Countryside High's Eleanor Kappeler (Mount Holyoke). More than 30 applied for the inaugural rewards by writing an essay, and each received an invitation to the June 9 reception.
The awards are part of Moffitt's Healthy KIDZ, a community outreach program offered by the center for children and adolescents of all ages. It focuses on cancer prevention and healthy living.
Molina Healthcare also made a significant donation to help ignite the program.
Murman, Molina Healthcare regional community engagement manager Angela Hall, Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson and Lee Green, Moffitt vice president of diversity, public relations, served as presenters. Moffitt center director Thomas Sellers served as emcee.
"We are all very proud of the Moffitt Healthy Kids Program and the impact it is having in our community," Green said. "It is very rewarding for us to have the opportunity to directly support students financially who are interested in science, technology and math. This is just a small investment in our future researchers and doctors."
Healthy KIDZ founder and Moffitt community relations coordinator Nikki Ross-Inda beamed about the winners, but also took pride in the fact she connected two finalists who didn't win with Hillsborough Community College officials in attendance. She aims to build on the foundation of the initial event.
"The bar has been set high," Ross-Inda said. "In the spring of 2018, we plan to have more sponsors, award more STEAM scholarships and roll out the red carpet."
Ross-Inda said Moffitt will follow up with the winners throughout their college journey.