Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gordon & Doner provide four years of college tuition to four area high school seniors for maintaining integrity while overcoming adversity.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The law firm of Gordon & Doner is proud to announce the winners of the Gordon & Doner Scholarships, which provides four years of college tuition to four area high school seniors based on ability to maintain integrity while overcoming adversity. 

“This scholarship is unique because grade point average is not a factor. Our goal is to make a difference in the lives of students who may not be able to attend college without our help,” said Robert E. Gordon, a founding partner of the law firm of Gordon & Doner. “We appreciate the opportunity to help these four high school seniors with integrity to further their education.” 

The winners are: Carlos Thal, Shanda Jean Baptiste, Carolina Echeverri and Lucy Miller. A committee of Gordon & Doner employees and representatives from area Kiwanis Clubs chose the scholarship recipients from over 100 deserving applicants from Palm Beach, Broward, Martin and St. Lucie counties based on their essays and letters of recommendation. 

Carlos Thal attends Martin County High School and will be the first person in his family to graduate high school. Thal struggled academically in the first two years of high school as he worked to learn English after arriving in the US from Haiti in 2007. 

In his essays, Thal wrote of his tribulations in balancing his school work with helping his mother care for his 12 younger siblings after the incarceration of his father. “I can’t neglect my studies if I want to realize my dreams of becoming a doctor,” Thal wrote. 

According to his ESOL teacher, Patricia Beondé, Thal returned to school his junior year with an “amazing attitude” and an improved his grades to earn a place on the honor roll. “He knows that, in the long term, the best way to help [his family] is to become educated,” Beondé wrote. 

Thal plans to attend Indian River State College, so he can stay near his family and continue to help his mother and his siblings. Thal hopes to pursue a career in the medical field after college. Scholarship winner Shanda Jean Baptiste is also dedicating herself to medicine. 

Baptiste is a resident of Lauderhill, an active volunteer, ranked seventh in her class at Blanche Ely High School and has worked at a retirement home for more than two years to support her family. Baptiste’s mother was working two jobs to support her two children after escaping from an abusive husband. That changed one night when Baptiste’s mother collapsed. 

“She cannot get a job due to all of her medical problems, so that leaves me,” Shanda wrote. Baptiste’s father was imprisoned for horrifically abusing Baptiste and her mother for several years. But Baptiste is transforming the past abuse into a promising future. She plans to study psychology at the University of Miami and open a community center to help children overcome abusive situations like her own. 

Cooper City High School student Carolina Echeverri also enjoys giving back to the community. Echeverri plans to attend Florida State University to study International Affairs and world languages. While maintaining her place on the honor roll, Echeverri was also very focused on volunteering. 

Echeverri logged over 1,000 service hours, many due to her extremely active involvement in Key Club. Her dedication and leadership skills led Echeverri to be unanimously elected Key Club president in her junior year of high school, a role typically held by a senior student. 

“As Key Club President last year and currently Lt. Governor, Carolina has been one of the most inspiring young leaders that I have seen in a long time, due to her genuine passion and enthusiasm,” wrote Cooper City Commissioner James Curran in recommending Echeverri. 

And, rounding out our four scholarship recipients is Lucy Miller. She is a Royal Palm Beach resident and violin student at Dreyfoos School of the Arts. In recommending Miller, her violin instructor, Suzanne Walter-Geissler, wrote “she is a young woman of great character who is hard working, consistent, intelligent, articulate, and most generous.” 

As with all the scholarship recipients, Miller faced her share of hardships. Her struggles included caring for her mother, Rosemarie Brown, as she battled a rare and invasive cancer that thankfully spared Brown’s life but created great financial hardship for the family. Miller and her family are thankful the burden of paying college tuition is now lifted and Miller can follow her dream of majoring in Environmental Science at the University of Florida while continuing her musical studies.

Selecting these four winners was a daunting task. “It wasn’t easy to choose just four scholarship recipients from so many deserving applicants,” Gordon said. “We would like to thank everyone in the community for their support and dedication to the scholarship program, especially the Kiwanis Club and school representatives who encouraged students to apply for this amazing opportunity.” 

The law firm of Gordon & Doner has been serving the community for over 17 years.  Their practice areas include Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Medical Malpractice, Nursing Home Abuse, Defective Products, Workers’ Compensation, Veterans Benefits and Immigration Law.  Gordon & Doner has offices in Palm Beach Gardens, Stuart, Pembroke Pines and Fort Lauderdale. For more information, call (561) 333-3333 or toll free at (800) 659-1159


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