Rollins College always is looking to recruit bright young minds — and local Winter Park Wildcats and Trinity Prep Saints are no exception.
Three high school graduates from local Winter Park schools are reaping the benefits from Rollins’ Alfond Scholars Program, which offers qualifying students a full ride for four years including tuition, room and board.
It’s a scholarship valued at $250,000 and earned by students through a selective process. Would-be recipients first have to apply, and then a select few are invited to the Rollins College campus for an interview process.
The money from the scholarship comes from the Harold Alfond Foundation. Net operating income from the Alfond Inn will be directed to the scholarship fund for the hotel’s first 25 years or until the endowment principal reaches $50 million.
“It’s one of our premier scholarships that allows us to recruit some of the best of the best students from certainly the local area but also the country and throughout the entire world,” Rollins College Chief Marketing and Community Relations Officer Sam Stark said. “It’s growing — a lot of it is based on the growing revenue and net profit of the Alfond Inn. As that hotel continues to serve the community and the thousands of guests on a yearly basis, the success of the hotel will help increase the number of scholarships that we can offer on an annual basis.”
Winter Park residents and current Rollins College students Fiona Campbell, Sarah Hameer and Michael Dennis all were chosen in the Alfond Scholars Program.
Since 2013, when the Alfond Inn was built, more than 50 full scholarships have been awarded to incoming students, Stark said.
Those recipients have come from around the globe — even as far as Nepal — but seven of those recipients have been Winter Park students.
“All of the students are obviously ridiculously talented, but to have this also serve our local market and our local students is quite special,” Stark said. “We truly get the best students from around the world and even our own backyard.”
Fiona Campbell is between her junior and senior years at Rollins College, where she is studying theater with an emphasis on directing. The Winter Park High School graduate said the program has been an amazing opportunity.
“I know that a school like Rollins definitely wouldn’t have been feasible at all for me and my family without the Alfond Scholars Program,” she said.
“I knew that I wanted to go to a smaller school — liberal-arts school specifically, because I had so many different interests and I didn’t want to limit myself or narrow in to one specific field right away in case I changed my mind. Rollins has allowed me to explore all the different things that I’m interested in.”
Campbell said she plans to apply for a number of directing apprenticeships at various regional theaters around the country, including the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, Playwrights Horizons in New York and the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. She also plans to apply for the Fulbright Scholarship in creative arts in fall 2019, with the aim of conducting independent research related to improvisational theater somewhere in the United Kingdom.
Trinity Preparatory School graduate Sarah Hameer just finished her freshman year at Rollins College, where she is studying biology and is currently on the pre-dental track.
She said she’s thankful for her adviser and the unique classes she was required to take in her freshman year.
“Everyone knows it’s a full ride, but it’s a lot more than that,” Hameer said. “We actually had a class second semester first year, and we went to Apopka, and we learned about farm workers’ rights. That’s all part of the program that they make first-years do with the Alfond scholarship. I think that just makes the experience 10 times better.”
It was special to be chosen for the scholarship, she said.
“Getting that invitation was incredible,” Hameer said. “I moved to (Central Florida) when I was 9, and my dad has always wanted me to go to Rollins. … It was crazy.”
Michael Dennis will be a senior at Rollins College this fall and is studying international business and Spanish. He graduated from Winter Park High School before attending Rollins and said he’s thankful for what the scholarship program has given him.
“Winter Park High School has many amazing, hardworking students, and I love seeing their hard work pay off,” Dennis said. “I would like to thank Rollins and the Alfond family for allowing myself and my fellow Winter Park High School alumni the opportunity to continue our studies in beautiful Winter Park and to be a part of this wonderful program. It has been quite an amazing journey so far.”
Dennis said he hopes to make as positive an impact as possible on society with everything he’s learned.
“The most important part of my degree actually won’t be the degree itself but rather the important skills and life lessons I have learned along the way,” Dennis said.