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Marco Island Academy (MIA) the island’s charter high school, graduated its seniors on Friday night, in a ceremony at the Family Church. In a way, by doing so, the school comes full circle, as classrooms at the church were MIA’s first home when it opened its doors six years ago.

As a charter school, MIA operates next to but distinct from other public schools. While many of the prospective students currently attend Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS), on the school district’s books, Marco Island students are zoned for Manatee Middle School, and then Lely High School. To attend MIA, students and their parents have to make a conscious decision, and then go through the enrollment process.

MIA principal Melissa Scott said this year’s crop of graduating seniors have been a wonderful presence at the school, and have worked hard and continually to give back. “What makes this class so special is they are a group of individuals that came together with such passion and purpose,” she said, quoting a student.

Asked to select just a few students to single out with profiles, she struggled to narrow down the field, but eventually came up with a “pick six,” half a dozen students who had exemplary high school careers. At such a small school, with just 62 graduates walking the stage to receive their diplomas on Friday, the six are almost 10 percent of the graduating class. A number of them pointed to the intimacy of MIA as a reason they liked it, and a reason for their success.

Olivia Scarpelli

“I came from a school with 2,000-plus kids,” said Olivia. “Here, they do a much better job focusing on you as a person. Going from a class of over 600 to a class just over 60 put me in a spot where I could spend more one on one time with teachers and staff members.”

She was accepted to Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast University, and will be attending FGCU, majoring in pre-nursing and minoring in “business or sales.” The youngest of five girls, originally from Illinois, she has seen three sisters graduate from college and has a sister attending Purdue.

Olivia earned a 3.7 GPA and was awarded the President’s Silver Scholarship. She was a competitive gymnast for 12 years, played volleyball and basketball and ran track, winning awards Best All-Around Player and Best Team Player. She was a cheerleader at MIA, and is joining the FGCU Cheer Team.

Olivia worked last summer as a lifeguard, worked part-time at Beebe’s Ice Cream, and also babysits.

Dylan Denkovich

Planning to major in physics with a specialty in astrophysics, Dylan will be attending Brown University in Rhode Island, with the goal of becoming a physics professor. He also hopes to pursue his interests in philosophy, public policy, and journalism, and his list of activities reflects his wide-ranging curiosity.

An Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, Dylan created a solar oven for Naples Botanical Garden as his Eagle Scout project, founded the STEM Club at MIA, and worked as a volunteer at the Naples Zoo and Grace Place. He participated in the Key Club, Relay for Life, and Youth Leadership Collier, along with League of Women Voters-sponsored events.

Academically, Dylan was second in his class, with an unweighted GPA of 3.94, and 5.06 weighted. He is an Advanced Cambridge International Examinations AICE diploma recipient, a member of the MIA student council and the National Honor Society.

Dylan lives in Golden Gate Estates and commuted to MIA. His scoutmaster, Nick Evans, said Dylan is “frighteningly smart. And he’s got a great sense of humor. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Keaton Williams

Keaton earned a 4.27 GPA, while also working 30-plus hours a week at golf courses including Hammock Bay and the Rookery. Golf is a big part of his life, and he played varsity all four years of high school, serving as captain his senior year.

“In four years, we only lost a total of three dual matches,” he said. He will be attending Florida State University in the fall. Keaton put in over 100 volunteer hours his senior year, and says that is another major passion.

“I love to volunteer. If I could do one thing for the rest of my life, it would be to help people.” He is not sure what path his career will take, “but I know that whatever it is, I want to be giving back and helping others as much as I can.”

Along with his school, Keaton gave a shoutout to his mother for the help she has given him.

“I was raised by a single mother who owns and runs her own company,” he said. The concept of family is important to him, said Keaton. “My favorite thing about this school is how it’s a family. I’ve really grown my family being here.” He is a member of the National Honor Society, and completed seven AICE and honors classes.

Caitlyn Schmidt

Ever since her grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, said Caitlyn, she has wanted to be in the forefront of medical advancement. She will get the chance, attending Stanford University in the fall, majoring in biomedical engineering.

Caitlyn participated in a wide range of activities, serving as president of the Key Club, and helping take it from four members to over ninety during her tenure. Her unweighted GPA of 3.96 translates to 4.84 weighted. She was a member of the Student Leadership Team, the Interact Club, and the Ethics Bowl Team, taking them to finalists in regional competition. She served as morning announcer for MIA, and announced candidates including Stephanie Lucarelli and Kathleen Passidomo at candidate forums.

She played singles and doubles on the varsity tennis team, and participated in cheerleading all four years, serving as captain this year. Work experience includes being a hostess at Joey’s Pizza, and a server at Island Country Club. Caitlyn took AICE courses throughout high school, and earned the AICE diploma.

“My parents have been a huge contributor to my success,” she said, and also credited the “family atmosphere” at Marco Island Academy.

Kyle Ginther

Accustomed to leadership on the field, Kyle served as captain for the football and track teams. He won the Leadership Award for track, and earned MVP for the MIA football team, and Honorable Mention for the All-Area Football Offensive Team.

With a GPA of 4.15, he will be attending Florida State, planning to major in education. Along with several of his fellow honorees, Kyle emphasized the value of personal attention in a small high school environment such as MIA.

“I can go into Miss Scott’s office and say I need help with my college application. At a larger school, you couldn’t ask, will you please reread my resume?” he said. “Down the line, if I need a recommendation letter, I think they will remember me.”

Kyle’s father Darren is a Collier County Sheriff’s officer, and his mother Lisa works as a labor and delivery nurse at NCH. He has two brothers, Christopher and Jason.

Will Carlisle

Accepted to the Citadel, University of Mississippi and Florida State, Will is going to attend the University of Utah in the fall, majoring in business.

“I really love the outdoors, and I was ready for something different” from Southwest Florida, he said. Will plans to enroll in ROTC in college, and join the Army on graduation, eventually going on to become an FBI agent or U.S. Marshal.

A true scholar-athlete, he won a Winged Foot scholarship, and carries a 4.73 weighted GPA. He completed five dual-enrollment college classes, and nine honors classes, was a member of the Key Club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the National Honor Society, and an officer in the Interact Club. Volunteer work included Meals of Hope, Habitat for Humanity, and the ACS Relay for Life.

On the playing field, Will was captain of the baseball, golf, tennis, and basketball teams, earning a total of 11 varsity letters, and also playing football for the school. His father is in the insurance field, and his mother is a retired schoolteacher.

Will worked part-time for the Marco Island Charter Club, Cocomo’s Island Grill, and Marco Island Brewery.

Check Friday’s edition of the Marco Eagle for a look at some of Marco Island’s outstanding Lely graduates.

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