Marco Island Academy sophomore Hunter O'Neill is the third Marco Island Academy student accepted by Cornell University to attend the school's summer program in Ithaca, N.Y.

Previous scholarship recipients are Myra Ortega and Romina Gimenez.

Students interested in attending the program apply to Cornell and must be accepted before the school even considers them as a candidate. An administrative team, made up of teachers, administrative staff and guidance counselors, views background information and courses taken by the applicants.

"Hunter stood out very much because of the choices he made this year and the resilience he has shown personally and different obstacles he has had to overcome in his life," said Jane Watt, academy chair.

O'Neill says the Cornell application was in three parts. First, he wrote a 250-word essay on why he would like to attend.

The process took about a week. The administrative team at MIA made its decision in four days.

"From the time I was approved by Cornell and then selected at MIA seemed forever," said O'Neill, who said he was thrilled he was chosen.

After receiving an application from Brown University for that school's summer program., Hunter mentioned it to MIA Principal Melissa Scott, who then told him about the Cornell summer program. Hunter decided to go with Cornell.

Cornell offers both six-week and three-week summer courses with a wide selection to choose from. O'Neil will attend the three-week class in July and plans to study government, philosophy and law and justice. O'Neill will receive four college credit hours.

When academy officials decided to get their students involved in a summer program, they began looking for a source to fund the scholarship.

Marco Marriott General Manager Rick Medwedeff got involved with the Cornell scholarship when Watt approached him about it three years ago.

"Besides other fundraising activities for MIA, we began to concentrate on this effort," said Medwedeff.

The fund-raising campaign started off with a Super Bowl Party hosted by the Marriott. "Knowing we would always have a Super Bowl party on the beach we would use that vehicle to fund the scholarship program," said Medwedeff.

"It's been an incredible experience for the students who have been able to go to Cornell and in some cases life changing," said Medwedeff. He was referring to the previous students who attended the summer program.

The commitment made in behalf of the Marriott to the academy will continue to be the funding source for the Cornell Scholarship Program. Guests attending the Super Bowl party purchase chance to win prizes for each quarter of the game. Names are put on a large board and winners are announced every quarter. Prizes include dinner certificates, Spa packages and other prizes.

At least two boards are filled, each board worth about $2500. All money collected goes toward the Cornell scholarship.

The scholarship includes travel expenses, meals and tuition. O'Neill will have the unique opportunity to meet classmates from around the world who will also be participating in Cornell's Summer Program.

Plans for the future include college, but O'Neil says he is still undecided as to which one he will attend. "Cornell University is definitely a consideration after graduation," said the sophomore. His older sister Jaclyn is studying pre med at Florida State and is in her senior year.

"My dad is really excited and is so proud of me," said O'Neill. This will be his longest trip away from home.

The 16-year-old going into his junior year makes him the youngest candidate selected for the scholarship.

Watt believes that because of his age, Hunter has more time to formulate what he wants to do now or whether to go in another direction.

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