2020 Scholarship Recipients
2020 Sinclair Scholarship recipients (top to bottom): Faith Kern, Christ United Methodist Church in Venice; Ainsleigh Wall, First United Methodist Church in Land O’ Lakes; Jennifer Baik, Tampa Korean United Methodist Church in Wesley Chapel; Abigail Bennett, First United Methodist Church in Stuart; and Olivia Walker, Lynn Haven United Methodist Church.

June 4, 2020

Scholarship recipients have all the ‘right stuff’

By: Suzanne McGovern

In describing this year’s class of Sinclair Scholarship recipients, one could easily run out of superlatives.

Each of them is an honor student with a grade point average of 4.0 or higher. Two are presidents of their senior class. All of them have logged hundreds of hours of community service. Two lead praise bands at their local churches. All hold multiple leadership positions at school and church. All have grown up in The United Methodist Church and plan to continue their church involvement through college and beyond.

In short, they are exactly the kind of students scholarship donors Aleen and Carson Sinclair envisioned when they established a scholarship fund in their will “to help educate a new generation of United Methodist leaders.”

“These students are intelligent and energetic and passionate about their church and community,” said Stephen Bell, secretary of the foundation’s board of directors and a member of the advancement and grants committee’s scholarship selection team.

“I never dreamed that high-schoolers would have such a clear understanding of why they need the church in their lives,” he added. “They are excited about being on a college campus, and they understand the church can be a place where they can find a home away from home. Several of them already have the names of churches and/or campus ministries that they want to visit when they arrive on campus.”

Another factor impressed Bell: each student’s passion for serving others.

“They genuinely love helping people,” he said. “I was amazed that they could have the academic careers that they have and still find time for all the extra-curricular activities they have in their schools, churches and communities. I don’t know how they find time to do it all.”

Healing people

One of those helpers is Jennifer Baik, an active member at Tampa Korean United Methodist Church in Wesley Chapel, where her father is senior pastor.

Baik was born in South Korea, but her family immigrated to the United States when she was six months old.

“The church provided stability in my life at a time when my family moved a lot,” she said. “Now I lead the praise band at our 9:30 a.m. contemporary service, and I would like to continue to play guitar in a praise band in college. I am passionate about guitar. It is one of the creative outlets in my life.”

Baik will attend University of Florida in Gainesville, where she plans to study public health. She has volunteered at her local Shriner’s Children’s Hospital and Advent Health-Tampa and founded a fundraising chapter of Doctors Without Borders at her high school.

She credits a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and her volunteer experiences at local hospitals with helping her develop a passion to serve.

“The scholarship will help me achieve my dreams,” she said, “and alleviate the financial burden on my parents.”

Healing the Earth

Scholarship recipient Abigail Bennett is also a preacher’s kid and is an active member at First United Methodist Church in Stuart where her father serves as senior pastor.

Bennett has a music internship at the church, where she leads a youth praise band and plans a weekly worship experience for elementary students. She hopes to join a worship team at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, where she plans to earn a double major in environmental studies and political science.

“I am passionate about sustainability and protecting the earth,” she said. “I am interested in the policy aspects of environmental sciences, and that is why I decided to pursue a double major.”

“The church has always been a constant in my life. I am honored to win a United Methodist scholarship and to be attending a United Methodist college.” — Olivia Walker, scholarship recipient

She is excited that Florida Southern allows students to participate in research projects with faculty, beginning freshman year.

Bennett also recognizes the struggles many people experience and said participating in six mission trips “opened my eyes to the poverty and need that exists in the world.”

The scholarship is important to her, she says, because “it lifts a huge portion of the financial burden of higher education from my parents’ shoulders and affords me an education that will give me the tools I need to succeed.”

The eyes have it

Like Baik, Faith Kern plans to attend University of Florida in the fall and study chemistry and Spanish. Right now, her career goal is to become an optometrist like her mother.

The Sinclair Scholarship will allow her more freedom to participate in internships, electives and student activities, Kern says, instead of finding a job to meet expenses.

She also appreciates the time she has spent as a member of the youth group at Christ United Methodist Church in Venice.

“It has become like home to me,” she said. “It is a place where I can be myself, and where I have learned so much from other people.”

Part of that learning included embracing the need to serve. She has worked on projects to feed the homeless as part of Mission Venice, and she chaired the Science Olympiad at her high school. She was also named “best delegate” in the Model United Nations competition at her school.

Educating the next generations

Olivia Walker also wants to serve, but in the area of education, and she has ambitious plans for her time at Florida Southern College.

She will participate in the school’s honors track and take advantage of its “Four Plus One” program, which will allow her to graduate in five years with a master’s degree in elementary education.

Serving as a volunteer teacher in a year-round Vacation Bible School for pre-K and elementary school students at Lynn Haven United Methodist Church near Panama City helped foster her love of teaching. Her volunteerism also extended beyond the church through efforts to help restore communities devastated by Hurricane Michael.

“These students are intelligent and energetic and passionate about their church and community. They genuinely love helping people.” — Stephen Bell, foundation board member

Walker was also a leader in school, as president of her senior class and captain of her soccer team. And as a member of student government, she was instrumental in planning and executing an awareness campaign called “Prom Promise,” which cautioned students not to drink on prom night or ride in a car with someone who was drinking.

The scholarship is important, she says, because Florida Southern is a private school with more expensive fees than public colleges. But the support means more to her than just a boost to her finances.

“The church has always been a constant in my life,” she said. “I am honored to win a United Methodist scholarship and to be attending a United Methodist college.”

Focus on the mind and soul

As an active member at First United Methodist Church in Land O’ Lakes, Ainsleigh Wall has worked throughout her high school career to help build bridges between the church and community.

One of her successes is a youth program called “Fifth Quarter,” which draws hundreds of high schoolers to the church after every home football game. They congregate at the church’s “youth hut,” where they receive food that has been donated by local families or businesses and participate in themed games and other social activities.

At school, she was president of her senior class, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a club called “Odyssey of the Mind,” which challenges students to develop their critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills by overcoming an academic challenge within a set period of time.

Wall plans to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee, where she will major in journalism and communications. She is interested in working as a broadcaster in sports marketing, but ultimately wants to get a law degree so she can work in the “business side of sports.”

She plans to affiliate with the school’s Wesley Foundation and says the scholarship will help her grow and make new connections as she works toward her degree.

About the scholarship

The foundation accepts applications for the scholarship each year between January and March. A selection committee then reviews the applications and makes decisions based on academic merit and demonstrated participation in church and community service.

Scholarship amounts range from $2,000 to $3,000 per year, and once awarded, they may be renewed for up to three years, provided the recipient remains in good standing at his or her college or university.

The Sinclairs were members of John Wesley United Methodist Church in Tallahassee. They endowed the scholarship in their will and appointed the foundation administrator. It has been awarded annually to United Methodist students since 2001.

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