MARINE MAJOR STARTS SCHOLARSHIP FUND FOR UPPER KEYS STUDENTS

Coral Shores 1991 graduate Jason Kendall knows what it feels like to graduate without receiving a load of scholarships. A resident of Key Largo, the U.S. Marine major who’s currently stationed in Stuttgart, Germany is assisting his community, specifically senior students in the Upper Keys. 

Recently, Kendall created a fund to offer two $1,000 scholarships to deserving students in 2022. Not only are the awards recognizing students, but they’re also being named in honor of two local educators Kendall had in school, Kay Horn and John Donnelly. 

“Both of these educators had a significant impact on me and the person I’ve become. For that reason, I have them to be the first two individuals recognized with awarding a scholarship in their names,” Kendall said. 

During his senior year, Kendall said he signed up for an algebra class at Florida Keys Community College, known now as the College of the Florida Keys. There, he met Horn. 

After the second class, Horn asked the senior why he was taking the class. In response, Kendall told Horn that he needed to practice for the SAT. Horn acknowledged that she’d work with him on the math portion and told him not to worry about his night class grade. 

“From then on at the beginning of each class, she would give me handwritten math problems that she wanted me to work on that were designed to help me with the SAT,” Kendall said. “In addition to taking the night class at FKCC, she also tutored me three days a week after school at no charge until I took the SAT. Her kindness and generosity has always been something I have remembered.”

Among Kendall’s teachers at Coral Shores was John Donnelly. He recalls taking a study hall class with the Purple Heart recipient, who helped him with the class workload. Kendall said Donnelly’s approach to teaching gave him the extra help needed to achieve success in school. 

In addition, Kendall said, his time with Donnelly exposed him to the Marine Corps for the first time. 

“This led me to join the Marine Corps after graduating from college and eventually retiring from the Marines as an officer. The little known influences he had on me early in my life helped pave the way for me to become the person I am today both personally and professionally,” Kendall said.

Kendall won’t forget the generosity Horn and Donnelly gave him during his years in school, which led him to create the Upper Keys Scholarship Fund. Not only will it help future leaders in their quest for higher education, but it also recognizes the contributions unselfishly given by teachers and community leaders. Through Kendall’s scholarship fund, teachers can be recognized from Upper Keys schools, including Key Largo School, Plantation Key School, Coral Shores High School or any of the Montessori schools.

A selected board of past students from the schools will select the awarded student and recognized teacher for scholarships that come from the general fund. Individual donations can be made identifying a specific teacher to be recognized, but the board will make the determination of the deserving student, though student recommendations from the donor will be considered. 

Kendall said the nonprofit provides the service that includes securing the donation and distributing it in the form of a scholarship at no cost. 

“Because we are just getting started a lot of our procedures are still fluid and are working on constructing our bylaws,” Kendall said. “That being said, we are prepared to award scholarships this school year.”

Scholarship awards through the nonprofit have no specific stipulations attached. Kendall said they’re open to everybody. Recalling the struggle obtaining scholarships to pay for school, Kendall said he wants to assist those who might not have several awards to their name. 

“My thought is I don’t want to load up somebody who’s already getting several scholarships,” he said. “Ours are for the people who don’t have any. And I don’t care what your family background is. This is to appreciate somebody that, ‘Hey, you’re going to school, here’s some money.’”

College-bound students can apply for the Upper Keys Scholarship Fund through  keysschools.com and clicking the “Senior Scholarship Opportunities” tab. 

Kendall is currently in Germany with his wife and children. He said he’ll be back in the Keys in January 2024. Kendall helped reinvigorate the VFW Post 10211 in Key Largo in 2018 with help from fellow veterans and the community. 

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Jim McCarthy is a northerner who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since his graduation from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3 years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. Behind every community is resiliency and resolve in difficult times. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim serves as President of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. “It’s a group that lives by the motto ‘Service Above Self,’” he says. “We’ve done service projects at the Tavernier nursing home, sitting down and socializing with residents. “We’ve also supplied cameras to young students exploring the Keys ecosystem.” Jim loves sports, family and time exploring underneath the water depths.