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INVERNESS — Wade McDonald was a shy, introverted kid until a mentor from the Take Stock in Children program helped give his life a new direction.
Now McDonald, a dual-enrollment senior at Lecanto High School, could be on track for a full-ride college scholarship thanks to the same program that gave him the confidence to succeed.
Wade learned Friday he is one of 12 finalists in Florida for five Leaders 4 Life Fellowships that would give him a full-ride scholarship to any state university.
Wade knew nothing of the announcement until he walked into a room expecting to pull names from a drawing for Take Stock in Children prizes.
Instead, his parents, mentor, school assistant principal and Sheriff Jeff Dawsy greeted him.
More than 70 high school seniors across the state applied for the scholarships by completing two essays. Wade, who is looking toward a career in civil engineering, will learn in January whether he is one of the five winners.
If the decision were up to his supporters, Wade would be a shoo-in.
“It’s kind of special that a young man from our county ... would be recognized in the upper echelon,” Dawsy said. “We are proud your part of our program.”
The Take Stock in Children program is a partnership between the school district and sheriff’s office. Adult mentors meet with students to help guide low-income students through their education.
Sheriff’s Capt. David DeCarlo said Wade earned the recognition.
“This endeavor is about hard work,” DeCarlo said. “He has taken this opportunity and has run with it.”
State Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, R-Inverness, encouraged Wade to earn his degree and bring his skill back to his hometown.
“You’re going to make this a better community,” Smith said.
Wade’s mentor, Robert Allen, said Wade has evolved into a leader.
“I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving,” Allen said. “When I first met with him, he was shy, reluctant to talk.”
Wade attends College of Central Florida classes through the dual enrollment program. He said he’s hoping to attend Florida State, University of South Florida or University of Central Florida.
“It’s amazing how you know you can go far in life,” Wade said. “I hope I will be successful and I think I will.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or email@example.com.