Tricia Hynes serves as the scholarship committee chair for the Upper Keys Rotary Club. KEYS WEEKLY PHOTO

Tricia Hynes has spent a lifetime helping kids, from her days as a middle school special education teacher and counselor in Colorado to her involvement with a local Rotary club in the Upper Keys. Her work and passion for youth haven’t stopped, as she is the chairwoman for a committee that’s tasked with helping students who aspire to a brighter future but need financial support. 

Twenty-three years ago, Hynes became a full-time Florida Keys resident. Having spent decades in the education world, Hynes knew she still wanted to be involved with kids in their journey through school. In 2009, she joined the Upper Keys Rotary Club, a group of more than 100 members dedicated to helping students in the community. The group financially supports Coral Shores graduates who attend universities and technical schools to the tune of $200,000 a year, thanks to the annual Gigantic Nautical Market. Since the event’s inception, the Upper Keys Rotary Club has doled out more than $2.5 million in scholarships. 

Hynes serves as chair of the club’s scholarship committee, where members of the group are tasked with analyzing student applications and selecting recipients of the money generated at the annual two-day shopping event. 

“I’m really proud of the fact we added a scholarship specifically for technical school,” Hynes said. “We have helped some local people go on to become EMTs and electrical linemen.”

Having been a committee member for a decade, Hynes said she’s developed bonds with many students who’ve attended and graduated from Coral Shores High School. One of her bright stars is her Take Stock in Children mentee, Jady Lopez. 

Hynes said Lopez came from a large family and was determined to have a better life for herself. Lopez graduated Coral Shores in 2017 with several honors. She was accepted into the University of Florida and graduated in 2021 with a degree in biochemistry.

Tricia Hynes hands a scholarship to a Coral Shores graduate during senior night in 2019. CONTRIBUTED

Today, Lopez works as a chemistry technician at Merieux NutriSciences, where she tests the overall quality and safety of food. 

“That’s been the most rewarding experience since I’ve been here, knowing that she’s really making a difference,” Hynes said. “What we do really does affect people’s lives. To send a kid to college for one year doesn’t change someone’s life, which is why we continue scholarships for all four years of college.”

Hynes works to make sure students aren’t forgetting the necessary paperwork to apply for financial assistance from the club. Funds given to students by the Upper Keys Rotary Club can go to such things as class materials or transportation to school.

“We can be very flexible,” Hynes said. 

Hynes said college students who’ve previously received financial assistance from Rotary usually text, call or email her asking, “Can I be reimbursed” for other school-related expenses they incurred as they continue their second, third or fourth year. From there, it evolves into a conversation on a student’s struggles or triumphs. 

“Some students are much chattier than others,” Hynes said. 

Frank Derfler, president of the Upper Keys Rotary Club, said many members work behind the scenes with little public credit. Hynes is one of the quiet but valuable members of the community, he said. 

“Tricia is unique in that she has two master’s degrees and she puts them to good use,” he said. “She spends a lot more time interacting with and counseling our students in academic programs than you would expect. She cares.”

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers 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 he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus 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. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.