Teen Court graduates honored with scholarships, visit by Clerk Tara Green

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LAKE ASBURY – Teen Court seniors were in for a number of different surprises last week, including driveway greetings and scholarships.

May 27 was shaping up to be a standard day for 18-year-old senior Grace O'Neill. She had a few things to do through Zoom but other than that, she was at home, which is where the majority of seniors have been spending their days during the COVID-19 pandemic. At noon that day though, some familiar faces knocked on her door.

“We’re here today to give Grace a scholarship but she doesn’t know that,” Teen Court administrator Michelle Taylor said.

After a few knocks on the door, O'Neill opened it to find some Teen Court staff and Clerk of Courts Tara Green. O'Neill was first presented with a yard sign congratulating her on finishing senior year. That alone brought a big smile to O'Neill’s face but shortly after that, Taylor presented to her a $1,000 scholarship.

The scholarship, the Clerk’s Award, is a $1000 scholarship that O'Neill can use on anything she wants in college – books, tuition, class supplies and more.

“I had no idea,” O'Neill said. “This is awesome. It means a lot to receive this.”

O'Neill had no idea but her mother, Megan O'Neill had known for a little over a week. She said keeping the secret was tough, especially when she had to explain to O'Neill that she needed to get dressed and picture-ready for “some reason” around noon. Megan said she was quite happy with herself for not spoiling the surprise — she admittedly has a hard time hiding surprises, she joked – but in doing so, O'Neill’s regular Thursday was all the better for it.

Taylor and Green said O'Neill is more than deserving of the scholarship award and Green joked that O'Neill can use it to become an attorney so that she can come back and volunteer her time with future Teen Court groups.

O'Neill, however, said she plans to pursue nursing in college. She said she’s been shadowing nursing programs and has really taken to it, so much so that she’ll begin education for it this fall at Florida State University.

“I love service and Teen Court really helped me realize that,” O'Neill said. “I just want to help people and nursing will allow me to do that. Teen Court helped me get to this point.”

Other award recipients include Timothy Sinclair and Jonathan Lopez. Sinclair received the Star Scholarship award and Lopez received the Jim Thies Scholarship award. Teen Court staff visited the other seniors in Teen Court that day, too. They stopped by the houses of Erica Carnegie, Inez Nieves, Melody Knight and Karl Stillword, as well.

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