ROYAL PALM BEACH — Seven students from Palm Beach County Schools who are heading for their college of choice were awarded $1,000 and $500 scholarships by the Caribbean-American For Community Involvement in Florida Inc. organization during CAFCI’s annual student assistance ceremony at the Kevin Harvin Center in Royal Palm Beach.

This year marks the 20th year of CAFCI’s Student Assistance program that recognizes students’ achievement in county schools and colleges. To date, CAFCI has given 85 monetary awards totaling $35,490.

The seven students awarded 2012 scholarships are:

Alexandra D’Haiti — Glades Central High School graduate who plans to attend the University of Florida;

Anthony Woodside — Suncoast High School graduate who plans to attend Stetson University;

Ashley Connor — Dreyfoos School of the Arts graduate who plans to attend Emory University;

Bernadette Simeus — Atlantic High School graduate who plans to attend Florida Atlantic University;

Natalya Miller-Odum — Atlantic High School graduate who plans to attend Simmons College;

Tiffany Wiliams — Suncoast High School graduate who plans to attend the University of Florida;

Wilderson Vernet — Glades Central High School graduate who plans to attend the University of Florida.

Simeus, who plans to pursue studies in nursing, received the Simms Award for Academic Excellence through the generosity of lifetime CAFCI members Mr. and Mrs. Lauriston Simms.

The student assistance awards also are made possible through other members and supporters of the organization’s annual ball and family picnic.

The Winn-Dixie Foundation partnered with CAFCI and provided funds through a grant written by CAFCI Student Committee Chair Elaine Ealy. It is the second year of partnership between CAFCI and Winn-Dixie in providing assistance to students in Palm Beach County. Mary Deniliack, representing the Winn-Dixie Foundation, presented the $2,500 check to CAFCI.

Donations to the scholarship fund were also made by Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Wayne Richards; Royal Palm Beach Councilman Jeff Hmara; CAFCI founding members Ledlo and Junette Powell; and Peter and Helen Inniss and Colette Brown-Graham, community business partners.

Each year students graduating from Palm Beach County schools are invited to apply for CAFCI assistance. Applications are posted in January on its website as well as the Palm Beach County School District website.

Requirements include a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above, a letter of acceptance from the intended college and an essay demonstrating the student’s interest in and knowledge of Caribbean culture and affairs.

Students who meet the requirements are invited to an interview after which the selection for awards is made. This year’s interviewing was done by Ealy, the award committee chair; Nadine White-Boyd, committee member; and CAFCI member and retired principal Cedric Lynch.

Village of Royal Palm Mayor Matty Mattiolli saluted the recipients. Past award recipients Cassandra Knaggs and Rochele Brown shared their college experiences. Knaggs, a Boca Raton High School graduate who has just completed her first year at Florida State University, offered advice to the current recipients. Brown, who graduated from Dreyfoos School of the Arts and now is a junior at Darmouth College, shared via Skype about her college life experiencing immersion into several cultures – Arabic, Scottish, Danish and Spanish. 

Contributors to the student assistance fund were presented with certificates of appreciation. In his speech, Commissioner Richards urged others to make pledges to the worthy cause so that CAFCI may continue its work. Brown-Graham expressed how moved she was with the speeches of the recipients and congratulated CAFCI on helping the community in the field of education. Simms applauded the recipients and thanked the recipient of his award for choosing to enter the medical field.

By the end of the ceremony, contributions, including an annual pledge, were made to the Student Assistance Fund for 2013 scholarships to graduating students of Palm Beach County Schools.

For more information contact Elaine Ealy via email at or 561-753-5000.