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East Ridge Middle student wins college scholarship for essay

Kailey Walker can stop fretting about college tuition.

The East Ridge Middle School seventh grader recently was awarded a four-year scholarship from the Florida Prepaid College Foundation for her winning entry in the 2012 Governor’s Recognition Scholarship essay contest. The scholarship will cover tuition, registration fees and local fees for 60 lower division semester credit hours as well as 60 upper division semester credit hours at one of Florida’s 28 colleges.

A total of 208 essays were submitted to the Foundation office in Tallahassee for the contest that asked seventh and eighthEast Ridge Middle student wins college scholarship for essay grade students to pen a 500-word essay that asked students to “choose one former Governor of Florida and describe his most significant impact on the Sunshine State and your life today.”

The list was narrowed down to the top five essays. Lake County Schools Superintendent, a representative from the Florida PTA, a representative from the governor’s office and a member of the Prepaid Foundation Board served as the final evaluation panel. The Governor’s Recognition Scholarship initiative began in 2006 with the goal of providing a college scholarship to at least one child in each county in the state. It is granted annually to middle school students who compose outstanding essays on the legacy of a past Florida governor. Each year, the Foundation selects a group of counties to participate in the essay contest. This year Lake, Miami-Dade, and Holmes counties were selected.

“It would be a dream come true to be awarded a scholarship — that will help me pursue even larger dreams,” Walker wrote in her essay application.

Her winning essay is as follows.

Throughout its history Florida has had many reputable Governors, One, whose contributions stand out more than others, is John Ellis Bush otherwise known as Jeb Bush. He served as the 43rd Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. Many of his accomplishments helped Florida’s economy, natural resources, and education system.

During his years in office, Governor Bush’s conservative policies reduced taxes by over $20 billion. His approach helped produce one of the most robust economies in the nation, creating 1.4 million new jobs and improving the state’s performance on Wall Street.

Jeb Bush opposed drilling for oil off of Florida’s coastline. Also, he signed legislation to protect Florida’s Everglades. Under his leadership, the state launched an accelerated restoration of this ecosystem, the largest project of its kind in the world, saving the habitat of 60 threatened and endangered species. This project also served to provide a long-term supply of drinking water for 8 million people in South Florida.

The success of Jeb Bush’s eight years in office made a lasting impact on education in Florida. The state raised academic standards, demanded accountability in public schools and created the most ambitious school choice program in the nation. Florida schools rose from over 30th to 8th in U.S.A. Bush helped to create many of the education reforms other parts of the country are now discussing. The federal Race to the Top grant program is modeled after Florida. Governor Bush mandated standardized testing in the form of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).

Governor Bush based his education plan on six main points. Schools are graded on a simple A through F scale based on student standardized test scores. Students participate in high-stakes testing. All students are required to meet grade standards before passing on to a higher grade. Teacher pay is based on student performance, and new methods used to credential teachers. Finally, the addition of Charter Schools and online schools offer parents more choices.

As a Middle School student, I benefit greatly from Governor Bush’s efforts towards Florida’s education and natural resources. Relocating to Florida from out of state, I was able to continue my education in a school system that is pursuing excellence and that is aiming to be a national leader. I learn in an academic program that challenges me, helps me grow as a student, and that provides me with quality teachers and resources. Governor Bush’s accomplishments make this a worthwhile learning experience.

Jeb Bush’s environmental programs touch my life as well. I have close relatives who live in south Florida and we visit them often. This highly populated area has plenty of fresh drinking water. The Everglades restoration project has improved the environment, keeping south Florida as a desirable travel destination and helping the tourism industry to thrive.

There are many things to appreciate about Florida and its leadership over the years. I admire the accomplishments of former Governor Jeb Bush; and am thankful for the lasting impact they have on my quality of education and quality of life.