Endowment must grow, president says.
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — There are some students around here who have achieved more in their first 18 years than some do their whole lives.
But only one of them gets to grab the brass ring of scholarships — the 2015 Trentini Award.
That honor, a $30,000 scholarship, goes to Wake Forest High senior Nicole Haley Gaito, a cancer survivor, soccer MVP and National Honor Society member whom the judges described as taking command of the room when they interviewed her.
“She interviewed us,” the impressed judges said.
She is the daughter of Kimberly and Christopher Gaito. With the financial aid, Haley can commit to the University of South Carolina to study marketing, Spanish and international business.
“I’m very proud, very happy,” the slightly stunned student said about being named the top Trentini scholar. “It just feels very rewarding that finally everything comes together.”
The top Trentini scholar at Heritage High is Tyler Lee Bendl, football kicker and golfer, who it’s obvious — if one reviews his accomplishments and academic awards — must fill his day with volunteerism when not studying for school.
The endowment hasn’t grown to compensate him as much — he won a $5,000 scholarship — but the competition was no less fierce.
He is the son of Freddie and Diane Bendl and plans to go to N.C. State to study bio-mechanical engineering (the field of making pacemakers, artificial limbs and the like).
“It’s such an honor to win such a prestigious award,” Tyler said. “I’m just so thankful to be surrounded by such a great community and great classmates.”
The winners were announced at the 35th annual scholarship banquet held in the students’ honor Saturday at The Forks Cafeteria.
Bendl and Gaito both faced five other classmates with accolades, awards and initiatives as great as their own. The Wake Forest High nominees, Tanner Lynn Compton, Madison Leigh Fingers, Matthew Thomas Goodwin Jr., Jazmine Shauntell Langley and Jonathan Bryce Love (yes that Bryce Love) were each awarded $1,000.
Due to a generous contribution, each Heritage finalist for the first time earned $250 scholarship. They are Kellie Doria Faison, Miranda Raynee Lopes, Sarah Nicole Ondrish, Mercedes Rae Stover and Blake Robert Walters.
Additionally, a community college scholarship award of $1,000 was given to Wake Forest High student Hallei Kaitlyn Floyd. But since Floyd has since learned she’s gained acceptance into UNC-Wilmington, that award will go to another deserving student.
Trentini Foundation President Kirke Hooper opened the banquet with a cautionary message. The all-volunteer, all-local foundation has grown its scholarship awards from $500 in 1980 to more than $41,000 today, adding Heritage High a few years ago.
But as Wake Forest grows, word of the scholarship needs to grow with it, she said, adding, “We need to replenish the endowment.”
She also had high praise for all the finalists.
“These kids are amazing,” Hooper added. “They’ll go places and do amazing things.”
The finalists were introduced by Heather Holding. After a thorough retelling of the history of the Trentini Foundation by Ruth Ann Dyer and an encouraging video featuring former winners, State Sen. Chad Barefoot took the dais.
Barefoot beamed at the youthful potential arrayed before him, noting that their example of hard work and dedication would propel them a lot further in life than any advantage they might have otherwise.
“Your pursuit of higher education is an honorable goal. We’re in a distinctive period in human history where this goal is accessible,” Barefoot said. “There is no doubt in my mind that each of you will be called on to be a leader in our community.”