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Leader for life

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LHS senior one of five recipients of Take Stock in Children fellowship

By Mike Wright

LECANTO — Once again, Wade McDonald walked surprised into a room full of well wishers.

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This time was even better than November, when Wade learned he was a finalist to receive a full-ride college scholarship through the Take Stock in Children program.

He entered a classroom Wednesday morning at the College of Central Florida and greeted a beaming program director Pat Lancaster while others applauded.

“I won?” Wade exclaimed.

Indeed, he did.

The Lecanto High School senior, who takes dual-enrollment courses at CF, is one of five students across the state awarded the “Leaders 4 Life” fellowship that provides four years of college free and clear, including funds for housing, textbooks, a laptop computer and meals.

McDonald joined the Take Stock in Children program as a shy freshman. During four years of mentoring by Take Stock volunteer Robert Allen, McDonald excelled in academics and community service.

“Wade thinks more of just himself,” Allen said, then turned to the teen and added: “Wade, you’re just a special guy.”

Supporters attending Wednesday’s surprise ceremony included school board officials, Sheriff Jeff Dawsy and state Rep. Jimmie T. Smith.

School board Chairwoman Ginger Bryant encouraged McDonald to continue his post-graduate success at home.

“We want you to go out, do your thing and come back to Citrus County,” she said.

Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel said McDonald helped place Citrus County on the map of educational success.

“I know you will go many places,” she said.

Dawsy said McDonald embodies the results of hard work and dedication.

“This is truly a reflection of what success is,” he said. “Follow your passion wherever that takes you.”

McDonald, who plans to attend the University of Florida and hopes for a career in civil engineering, was choked up by the recognition.

“It’s amazing. I can’t even talk,” he said.

Take Stock in Children’s “Leaders 4 Life” program was created in partnership with the Asofsky Family Foundation to provide financial resources and support for student recipients.

McDonald learned in November he was one of 12 finalists for the five fellowships. His final assignment: Create a five-minute video where he talked straight into a camera, explaining how Take Stock in Children impacted his life. Filming the video took three hours.

Lancaster said McDonald is the perfect role model for Take Stock in Children.

“He is one of the nicest young men we have in our program,” she said. “He is a caring and loving young man.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.