Speech by John Celestin '12

Eckerd College Scholarship and Internship Appreciation Lunch

March 4, 2009

I would first like to congratulate all the well-deserving students sitting in this room this afternoon and thank the generous contributors and Eckerd College for putting this event together. Ever since we were young, we were taught that college is the goal. I am sure there is no one in this room who was told when they were young that they should not worry about an education or college because it is never going to happen. To the students here today, congratulations for meeting and exceeding expectations.

When I was invited to speak, I was overcome with excitement and humbled by the fact that I would get to stand in front of you all and personally thank you for your contributions. This is a great honor for me.

My journey to Eckerd College was not an easy one. In fact, it is one I thought I wouldn't make at all. In the closing days of my senior year in high school, I looked into colleges and ranked them based on three main criteria. The first was class size, then athletics and, of course, cost. As my search narrowed, Eckerd College was low on my list. It did not meet two of my most important criteria—athletics (mainly football and track, my sports of choice) and cost. While looking at one of Eckerd's brochures, I noticed that the school was connected to a beach. I thought any school near water had to be nice, so I decided to visit.

The moment I stepped foot onto Eckerd's campus, I knew this was where I wanted to be. I'd researched Eckerd College before the visit. I loved the idea of small class sizes, and the mentor program for freshmen set this school apart from all the others on my list.

There was a problem, though, as there might be for most students about to enter college. Cost was a huge issue, especially during this current economic situation. However, as the saying goes, "Follow your heart." I knew Eckerd College was the right place for me.

My parents and I talked it over, and they never once brought up the money issue. It seemed like I was worrying more than they were, and they were just happy that I was going to college. We took on a huge loan for the year and did the financial-aid thing, and I was good to go for my first year at Eckerd.

While here in my first semester, everything was going well. I was into my studies, and I even got a chance to play intramural football with a few dorm-mates. Later in the semester, I ran into trouble, though. I did the calculations for the next school year, and my parents and I concluded there was no way we would be able to pay for it. Now, in any other college I would have panicked, but this was Eckerd. I went to Professor Brunello, and he said he would do anything it took to keep me here. He sent me to Dr. Pat Watkins, who is the best financial-aid counselor that ever lived (I am not just saying that). She helped calm my nerves and assured me that she would find a way to help me out.

That brings me here.

I received the Robert A. James Endowed Memorial Scholarship and the Ethics in Business Scholarship. When I heard that I was the recipient of these two awards, the first thing I did was call my mom. She began to cry. That is when I realized what these scholarships meant.

To my donors, Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Minck, Ms. Kathy L. Burley, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. James, thank you. Your contribution to my family is one we will never forget. You have given me more than just money for school. You have given my family peace of mind, you have thrown me a lifeline, and you have shown that you care about the future of our youth. For all the donors in this room, I say thank you for extending a helping hand and investing in the future of the striving students in this room today. Enjoy the afternoon, and know that you are well appreciated in the Eckerd community. Thank you.

Ann Rascoe, a member of ASPEC, and John Celestin (freshman), a scholarship recipient, at the 2009 Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon

Photo: Ann Rascoe, a member of ASPEC, and John Celestin (freshman), a scholarship recipient, at the 2009 Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon