The Marco Island branch of the American Association of University Women gave out Martha Yates scholarships to five deserving candidates.

One went to Ashley Schneller, a graduating senior from Lely High School. The others went to women already pursuing their education and living or working on Marco, including Caroline Bennett, Stephanie Pepper, Heather Lopez and Deborah McCabe.

"Our membership searches the island for deserving young women to apply for these scholarships," said Lynn Tuttle, development chair of the AAUW scholarship committee. "Each year we canvas the Island—police and fire departments, hospitals, library, YMCA and Mackle Park department of recreation—for suitable recommendations. Our ideal candidate is not only interested in an education but also in working and serving the community."

Caroline Bennett

* Caroline Bennett is a first-time AAUW winner. Bennett graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in speech and language pathology and is working on her master's at NOVA Southeastern University in Fort Myers. Although her plans are uncertain, they probably will involve "the school system and working with special needs children," she said.

To help finance her education, Bennett works part-time at the Marco Craft and Shell Shop, Horizon Rentals, even as a dog sitter. The daughter of the Rev. Kyle Bennett, pastor of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, she also has been involved in Camp Able, the church's summer program for people with diverse abilities. In fact, her work with special campers first brought her to the attention of the AAUW scholarship committee.

Stephanie Pepper

* It would be hard to visit Marco's YMCA without running into Stephanie Pepper. She has worked at the Y since 2000, and in her position as youth development manager is responsible for overseeing all youth (including summer camp, preschool and after-school programs), family, aquatics and sports programming. This is Pepper's third scholarship award, and she is working on a bachelor's degree in business administration at Florida Southwestern State College.

"I was so excited to win again this year," said Pepper. "It's almost as if AAUW is taking this journey with me."

So far, Pepper has gotten straight As in all her classes.

"I don't want to let them down," said Pepper. "I want to prove to them that I am worthy of their investment."

Heather Lopez

* Heather Lopez sits behind the desk at the NCH office of Dr. David Linz (formerly the office of retired Dr. Robert Folsom), a job she was offered after the right people noticed what a great volunteer she was at NCH in Naples.

Lopez plans to graduate in December from Florida Gulf Coast University with a degree in health science administration. This is the third time she has won an AAUW scholarship, and for her, these funds have been essential to getting her "as far as she is today," she said.

"There are a lot of scholarships available when you graduate from high school," said Lopez. "But the continued support of AAUW made it possible for me to finish my sophomore, junior and now senior year of college. It's only up from here."

Deborah McCabe

* Receiving an AAUW scholarship for the second year in a row is Deborah McCabe, who teaches business administration at Florida Southwestern State College. She is a doctoral candidate at Argosy University in Sarasota and due to complete her studies within the next year. Her thesis centers on male and female management styles and perceptions, a subject that dovetails with AAUW's own interests in women's issues. According to McCabe, "There are still inequities at the management level."

McCabe is passionate about learning and transferring her knowledge.

"The AAUW scholarships have made it possible to accomplish that goal," she said.

AAUW's leadership is proud of this year's winners.

"We are in awe of each of our scholarship recipients," says Linda Kropp, President of AAUW- Marco Island. "Their dedication and commitment to the future is what our organization supports. Next year, we hope to make even more scholarships and grants available to eligible candidates."

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