Posted by Ron Heymann on Dec 06, 2017
At Wednesday's meeting, the Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach kicked off the Rotary Scholarship Initiative fundraising drive.  The featured presenters were Mary and Briana Batrous.  2014 Rotary Scholarship recipient Kelsi Batrous was unable to attend.
Mary Batrous told her story of strength, struggle, hope and love - and how the Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach made a difference in her life.  After raising 3 sons, two of whom grew up to be Jacksonville Sheriff's Officers, Mary was faced with a difficult situation - raising 3 grand daughters.   Speaking like a pro during her first time in front of an audience, Mary shared the story of Kelsi - who wanted to be a neonatal intensive care nurse, and how the family couldn't make ends meet for tuition to help her achieve her goals.  Mary told us how she heard about the Rotary Scholarship Initiative, and how Kelsi applied, not knowing whether or not she would be eligible, let alone win.   Well.... Kelsi won.   In fact she couldn't attend Wednesday's meeting because she was working in the NICU at Wolfson's Children's Hospital, having obtained her RN certification at the age of 18, one of the youngest registered nursed on record.  Kelsi was working overtime, spending time with a premature baby born to a drug addicted mother.  (Kelsi keeps the Club informed of her progress with regular thank-you notes)
Then we learned about Mary's youngest, Brianna - who was in attendance.  Brianna is a really unique kid.  She's faced adversity since the day she was born prematurely - at 3lbs.   Legally blind, Brianna has not let any disadvantage hold her back.  She's a junior at West Nassau High School who will be graduating this year with a 4.5 GPA.   Brianna also shares her sister and grandmother's desire to make the world a better place.  She's amassed over 1200 community service hours - from running an animal rescue operation from her home to volunteering with the Vietnam Veterans and Nassau Council on Aging.  Brianna has contributed so much to the community around her that her work has received notice from Governor Rick Scott and Nassau County School Superintendent Dr. Kathy Burns.   Mary shared that Brianna may be shy and quiet (as most teenage girls are!) - but she's been raised to be strong, independent, and hardworking, as she's raised all three girls.
Needless to say, Mary, Kelsi, and Brianna's story moved those in attendance at the meeting.  It was powerful to hear how the Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach's efforts not just provided an opportunity for a local child - but how that kid went on to save others in the community.  It was inspiring to hear how our efforts continue to be desperately needed in the community - and how we can continue to pay it forward for future aspiring students.  There weren't a lot of dry eyes at the end of the presentation.
Our 2nd Annual Rotary Scholarship Luncheon is Thursday, February 8th.   Tickets for this special event start at $300 / $500 per couple.  100% of ticket sales will be passed through to scholarship recipients like Kelsi.   Your contribution might just help a kid like Brianna achieve her dreams, too.