The Rotary Club of Suntree, established in 1985, broke out a giant check to present to Eau Gallie High School senior Grayson Benton with $1,000 as the first recipient of the club’s Youth Leadership Award scholarship.
The scholarship was the idea of past club president Alan Frisher who agreed to fund the scholarship at $500 per year for 10 years to be matched by the Rotary Club of Suntree Foundation. Frisher and current club president Keith Gee held one side of the check with Grayson and his parents, Alison and Steve Benton, of Melbourne, holding the other side during the presentation Nov. 20.
Benton, 17, who was junior staff leader at RYLA camp, wrote an 300-word essay on how the RYLA experience helped him with his goals. One of those goals is to attend a top tier university. He is applying to Duke, Cornell and Rollins, with Duke University being his top choice.
Frisher said he had been thinking about establishing a scholarship for years and he was proud of the inaugural selection. As for Grayson’s essay and application, he said “He was quite impressive.”
“It’s really an honor to be here as the first recipient. RYLA really changed me. I learned about all these people around me in the community that actually want to do good and work together to better themselves. It made me realize I want to believe in the things this club believes in and I want to be my best,’’ Grayson said.
“It changed my outlook. It’s made be more outgoing. RYLA is a great experience. There are stronger bonds (established) in four days than anywhere else in your life because you are able to truly connect. It means a lot,’’ he said.
“Sky’s the limit for him,’’ said his dad, Steve Benton. “That’s what I told him, if he just puts in the work he will accomplish whatever he wants. It’s there. He just has to reach for it. He’s blessed with some intelligence but ultimately it comes down to hard work and he’s not afraid to work hard for these things.’’