Seven Orange County high school seniors received a big surprise from the nonprofit organization, Elevate Orlando--a mentoring program that not only creates relationships with at-risk youth but helps them achieve their goals of going to college and becoming productive citizens.
“We teach character development to students that have Elevate as an elective so they come to us every day, and we hire these fabulous teacher mentors and in after school, they mentor them,” Sherry Paramore, president of the organization said.
Elevate Orlando awarded a total of $25,000 in scholarships to students from Jose, Oak Ridge and Evans High schools.
News 6 was there when Bryce Chery was surprised with a $2,500 McGill scholarship. He says he hopes to double major in journalism and sports medicine.
Due to COVID-19, the annual scholarship dinner had to be canceled but that didn’t stop the organization from celebrating these students’ achievements. They came up with a scholarship parade and showed up at each recipient’s home honking their cars and cheering them on.
The top scholarship went to Decorey Purvis of Evans High school. Elevate Orlando says he’s overcome several challenges including bullying.
“My real goal is to open up small mental health clinics in lower-income neighborhoods just to help my community that supported me,” Decorey said. “I know there are other boys and girls just like me who’ve been through things that are rough and everything and I want to make things just a tad bit easier for 'em if I can.”
It was an emotional day for his mom, Tomekia Purvis, who was also surprised with the announcement.
“I’m just so proud of him for the fact that he wants to do something in the community that’s like truly great,” Purvis said. “I always tell Decorey, whatever you wanna do you don’t have to ask me, go do it. Whatever he wants for himself, I was 100% behind him.”
The organization says it was Decorey’s essay that influenced them the most.
"All of our students are really deserving. It was tough to decide who would get the top prize," Paramore said.
Tatiana Montañez says when Decorey enrolled in the program, his outlook was much different than what it is now.
“He was at a point where he didn’t trust people and even with our organization normally when a student’s like that, they are stand-off-ish,” Montañez said. “He’s grown into just an individual who’s learning how to trust more. He’s always been an incredible writer but now he was able to honestly portray that vivid imagery of what he’s gone through and it just stood out from the rest.”