The Sedalia Rotary Club presented scholarships and awards on Monday to several area high school seniors pursuing higher education after graduation.
Sedalia Rotary Scholarship Chairman Dave Limbaugh told KSIS that a total of three scholarships were handed out Monday at Best Western. One was a JROTC Scholarship in memory of the late Amanda May, a former Rotary member who died unexpectedly Aug. 18 and was a huge supporter of the Smith-Cotton JROTC program, of which her son Jenesis, is a member and Battalion Commander. Amanda's parents Lindal and Marilyn Grechus were both in attendance at the luncheon on Monday.

Another was the Leon Moore Scholarship. Moore was a member and past president of Rotary who died in 2012, about the time these now high school seniors were entering first grade.

“He created a scholarship that is more need-based for kids who get passed up by the number one prize, but they're still working in the shadows,” Limbaugh explained.

The third scholarship is Rotary's Most Outstanding Student in Pettis County. The top student from each area high school is interviewed by a panel and the winner receives the $4,000 scholarship. The amount was doubled from last year, Limbaugh noted.

There is a second-place scholarship that is worth $1,000. The money for the scholarships is generated through various fund-raisers that Rotary has every year.

One of those fund-raisers is the Sedalia Rotary's annual auction, which for this year is coming up April 26 at Best Western State Fair Motor Inn, 32nd and Limit.

“Create Hope” is Sedalia Rotary's 48th annual benefit auction and will begin at 6 with a silent auction, with a live auction beginning at 7. Food and drink will be provided, Limbaugh said.

Tickets are $20 each, and go to support Sedalia Community Helping Hands, an S-C JROTC Scholarship, and the creation of a Community Hope Chest.

Doors at the event will open at 5:30.

For more information on the auction is available by calling Project Chairman Ryan Wiedeman at (660) 287-79990 or Leslie Wimer at (573) 819-4495.

Past President Limbaugh said the club currently has about 75 members. “The next four of five years look really good for us,” he said adding that there are younger members with chair positions in the club that lead up to the presidency.

Limbaugh noted that to become a Rotary member, you have to either manage or own a business. Call Corey Bond or Darrin Grove to find out more. Ryan Wiedeman is the club's membership chairman.

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Gabriel Aitken of Smithton was the winner of the Leon Moore Scholarship. Leon's son Joe presented Aitken with a scholarship certificate.

Mariah Van Leer of Sacred Heart was named Outstanding Student of Pettis County.

The wInners of the S-C JROTC Scholarship were Stephanie Diaz, Jenesis May and Mia Estrada.

The nominees for the Leon Moore Scholarship were Grace Warner from Green Ridge, Gabriel Aitken from Smithton, Tatiyana Jones from La Monte, Samantha Altena from Sacred Heart, Draiven Short from Smith-Cotton, and Austynn White from Northwest.

Nominees for Outstanding Student were Mariah Van Leer from Sacred Heart, Emily Eschbacher from Smith-Cotton, Cade Fagg from Northwest, Julisa Arroyo from La Monte, Lane Fox from Green Ridge and Kathryn Staus from Smithton.

Van Lear, 17, spoke with KSIS after she was named the outstanding senior student in Pettis County.

“I am headed to either Benedictine College in Atchison Kansas, or Avila University in Kansas City,” Van Leer said, adding that she feels like everything she's accomplished throughout her life so far has been in preparation for college. “That's my next step.”

Van Leer noted that every person nominated for the outstanding student award was deserving, “and I think that it's a very subjective award to be named outstanding student of Pettis County, so I'm just grateful for the opportunities,” she said.

During the interview process, she was asked what historical figure she would like to meet and Van Leer answered “Jesus.”

“I do owe it all to Him, of course,” she said. “I keep Christ at the center of everything I do.”

Van Leer sang the national anthem at Monday's Rotary meeting and was invited to return and sing again at a future meeting. In addition to music (she plays guitar, sings, performs live in the area, and is auditioning at Avila University, a private Roman Catholic institution, on April 19) Van Leer is a goalie for Sacred Heart soccer, and is a speech and debate performer and is headed to state competition April 20.

“It's a great getaway for me, I just love music,” Van Leer confessed. “It's a wonderful outlet for me. It's my opportunity to praise God, and use the talents He's given me, so I sing a lot at church, and other places.”

One of her earliest live performances was upstairs at Best Western when Van Leer (little Mariah) was in second grade, singing with her classmates for the Bishop that day a decade ago. “This is where I got my start, in this room,” she recalled.

Van Leer is unsure about playing soccer in college. However, there is a soccer program just waiting for her to take advantage of.

“I've just never really pictured myself in collegiate sports, but, you know, you just never know,” she told KSIS. “If there's a need, I'm there. If they need a goalie, I'll be there.”

Aitken won the Leon Moore Scholarship, and plans to attend UCM and earn a degree in criminal justice. He said he also wants to enter the ROTC program there and sign up for the military after college.

He noted that Smithton High School does not offer a JROTC program. “Otherwise I would be in it,” he said.

Gabriel has been involved in Cross Country at Smithton, as well as basketball during his high school career. His mother is Andrea Reeves and she is a track and cross country coach at Smithton R-6.

Sedalia Rotary scholarships

Gallery Credit: Randy Kirby

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