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2024: Pathfinder Scholarship Awards

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2024 Pathfinders scholarship awards honor 54 remarkable Palm Beach, Martin county students

Students from public or private schools were eligible to be nominated for Pathfinders scholarships. Here’s what to know about the winners.

Katherine Kokal

Palm Beach Post

Vyapti Shahani Subramaniam

When Vyapti Shahani Subramaniam told adults she wanted to be a neuroscientist when she grew up, she remembers a particularly cruel (and common) response.

“Sweetheart, why don’t you choose a career more appropriate for girls?” they asked her. She said she felt ridiculed and


Now a senior at Suncoast High and one of 54 students honored with a 2024 Pathfinder Scholarship Award, Shaha

ni Subramaniam is proving that “a career that’s appropriate for girls” is truly anything a girl wants to be.

“Misogyny is globalized, but equal opportunity is not,” she said. “These oppressive voices made me even more determined as an Indian-American woman to use my opportunities to support the education of underprivileged girls and students in general.”

Shahani Subramaniam, first in her class of 355, applied to a slate of top-ranked schools and now plans to dive into neuroscience and biology at Washington University in St. Louis in the fall. Her goal is to understand and study consciousness and the states of knowing that allow people to perceive our surroundings in terms of “I” and “me.”

She is one of an impressive list of 54 Pathfinders, who were announced Friday at Screen on the Green on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. Shahani Subramaniam won first place in the Academic Excellence category.

Ryan Aouad

Pathfinder winner knows four languages. Guess where they come in handy the most?

Ryan Aouad, first place finisher in the World Languages category and nominated by West Boca Raton High, explained to the judges that he hopes to be a foreign affairs official and a polyglot, or someone who speaks several languages.

He is well on his way as a teenager: Aouad speaks or is learning Spanish, French, Arabic and Russian.

In addition to being able to trace the etymology of words in romance, central semitic and slavic languages, he said his skills also have far more practical uses.

“At my job as a lifeguard, there were numerous kids that did not speak English, usually from Latin America or Quebec. It was always a good feeling to be able to communicate with them in Spanish or French and convey the age-old rule of “no running!” in different languages,” he said.

Forced to evacuate her hometown for a hurricane, Pathfinder winner took on the challenge

Nikki Leali

Nikki Leali of FAU High School won first place in the Computer Engineering and Technology category.

Leali was forced to evacuate her home state of Louisiana from Hurricane Ida and move to Florida to start over in the middle of high school and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everything I knew about high school ended abruptly on October 13th of 2021,” she said. “The sudden decision forced me to leave behind everything I knew, including multiple volunteer programs I spearheaded. For the rest of my 10th grade year, I navigated as a Florida Virtual student, which was a difficult adjustment.”

But Leali rose to the occasion.

She became a dual-enrolled student at FAU High and began working toward her bachelor’s degree in data analytics. Leali hopes to work on harnessing artificial intelligence to get meaningful insights from complex data sets as the technology evolves.

Pathfinder winner helped fight poverty during internship. Now, she hopes to make a difference in her career

Jasmine Nunez

As a summer intern at a nonprofit in Martin County, Jasmine Nunez said it was impossible to ignore the shattered bottles and trash that littered the sidewalk of Bonita Street, a predominantly Hispanic community in Stuart.

Nunez spent the summer helping people living in poverty redeem clothing vouchers, learn English, nurture community gardens and get nutritious meals. When she went back to school at Clark Advanced Learning Center, she realized she had to tap into her Hispanic roots to make a lasting difference in her community.

“There is still much work to be done to eradicate the economic disparities that impact the Hispanic community,” she said. “However, organizations like House of Hope inspire me to further their mission by targeting one of the biggest challenges to food insecurity: a need for more data. I am passionate about filling this data gap and ultimately championing policy.”

As the winner of the 2024 Pathfinder Award for Community Involvement, Nunez has put in nearly 500 community service hours. She hopes to attend law school and find policy solutions to food insecurity.

Editor’s Note: Due to a reporting error, this section originally misstated the location of Nunez’s internship. Her internship took place in Martin County.

Winners of 2024 Pathfinders scholarship awards

This year’s Pathfinder Scholarship Awards garnered 544 nominations and honored students with a total of $117,000.

Along with the top prizes, second and third place winners earned $2,000 and $1,500, respectively, adding to more than $4 million awarded over the event’s history.

“The Pathfinder program is a celebration of high achieving students in Palm Beach and Martin counties,” said Janie Fogt, president of the Pathfinder board of directors. “Tonight, 544 outstanding seniors are in the spotlight for their success in one of 18 categories. The fact that they were chosen by their schools is a great honor, and we are delighted to award 54 of them college scholarships.”

See the full list of winners below:

Academic Excellence

  • First place: Vyapti Shahani Subramaniam, Suncoast High
  • Second place: Bradley Frishman, American Heritage School
  • Third place: Aditya Narayanan, William T. Dwyer High


  • First place: Petter Rodriguez, William T. Dwyer High
  • Second place: Arabella Sanchez-Garcia, Oxbridge Academy
  • Third place: Autumn Johnstone, Jupiter High


  • First place: Emilia McGovern, Wellington High
  • Second place: Jacob Glover, Spanish River High
  • Third place: Pratheek Nathani, American Heritage

Career and Technical Education

  • First place: Olivia Angervil, Clark Advanced Learning Center
  • Second place: Eden Price, Jupiter Christian School
  • Third place: Nandini Patel, The Benjamin School


  • First place: Laila Mayfield, Jensen Beach High
  • Second place: Isaac Edelman, West Boca Raton High
  • Third place: Dariel Reid, American Heritage

Community Involvement

  • First place: Jasmine Nunez, Clark Advanced Learning Center
  • Second place: Noah Forman, FAU High
  • Third place: Sofia Scher, Spanish River High

Computer Engineering and Technology

  • First place: Nikki Leali, FAU High
  • Second place: Katelyn Sadorf, Spanish River High
  • Third place: Kaitlyn Chen, Dreyfoos School of the Arts


  • First place: Sasha DiMare, American Heritage
  • Second place: Arik Karim, Dreyfoos School of the Arts
  • Third place: Morgan Rafferty, Suncoast High


  • First place: Shania Grant, FAU High
  • Second place: Joelle Carmel, William T. Dwyer High
  • Third place: Tanay Warrier, American Heritage


  • First place: Emily Singer, Dreyfoos School of the Arts
  • Second place: Nedjie Aurelien, Atlantic High
  • Third place: Alessandra Roberts, Saint Andrew’s School


  • First place: Matthew Cai, Atlantic High
  • Second place: Jesse Brodtman, American Heritage
  • Third place: Makena Senzon, Dreyfoos School of the Arts

Music — Instrumental

  • First place: Rose Friedman, Suncoast High
  • Second place: Julián Fente, Saint Andrew’s School
  • Third place: Ryan Vladimir, Boca Raton High

Music — Vocal

  • First place: Cassidy Clark, Palm Beach Gardens High
  • Second place: Ava Diamond, William T. Dwyer High
  • Third place: Olivia Reid, Seminole Ridge High

Reach for Excellence

  • First place: Brooke Taylor, Spanish River High
  • Second place: Kai Franks, American Heritage
  • Third place: Mikayla Jeanty, Park Vista High


  • First place: Ava Allwardt, Saint Andrew’s School
  • Second place: Nira Goyal, Martin County High
  • Third place: Theodore Ouyang, Suncoast High


  • First place: Jake Chavis, FAU High
  • Second place: Brynn Stoneburg, Jensen Beach High
  • Third place: Cecelia Oneid, Jupiter High

Theater Arts

  • First place: Von Markarian, Dreyfoos School of the Arts
  • Second place: Johnathon Bucknor, Wellington High
  • Third place: Kelsey Bonner, West Boca Raton High

World Language

  • First place: Ryan Aouad, West Boca Raton High
  • Second place: Addington McKearn, William T. Dwyer High
  • Third place: Mario Suarez, Saint Andrew’s School

Katherine Kokal is a journalist covering education at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at [email protected].

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Pathfinders scholarships are sponsored by The Palm Beach Post and award each of the first-place winners $3,000. By recognizing students across 18 categories, Pathfinders honors the high school seniors for their achievements inside and outside the classroom.

The scholarship program is now in its 41st year, and Palm Beach Post Executive Editor Rick Christie said it’s the best example of the newspaper’s relationship and investment in our community.

“This is one of my favorite times of year,” Christie said. “These high school graduates are forms of renewal of our ideas, of our ideals and what our community can be.”

Asked what his advice would be to the graduates and winners, Christie encouraged them to remember “whatever you think your limits are, think higher.”

2023: Pathfinder Scholarship Awards Mark 40 years

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Pathfinder Scholarship Awards mark 40 years of recognizing academic excellence

Kristina Webb
Special to The Palm Beach Post

A first-generation college student who wants to set an example for her younger siblings. A gay Black student who hopes to improve equity in medical care. A young entrepreneur inspired to achieve great things following his sister’s stillbirth.

These are just three of the 18 outstanding students honored by this year’s Pathfinder Scholarship Awards.

The Pathfinder Awards, sponsored by The Palm Beach Post, marked their 40th year with a remarkable slate of candidates — 530 of them.

The first-place winner in each of the 18 categories received a $3,000 scholarship in recognition of their achievements. Second- and third-place winners received $2,000 and $1,500, respectively.

In addition to requiring written recommendations from their academic leaders — including principals, program directors and teachers — finalists also are required to take part in an interview process.

All told, the scholarship program has awarded more than $3.5 million over the past four decades.

“It’s hard to think of a community event The Palm Beach Post has participated in over the past few decades that has a greater effect than the Pathfinder Awards,” said Palm Beach Post Executive Editor Rick Christie. “It is often said that its children are any community’s greatest asset. And, other than our award-winning education coverage, this is our way of helping to recognize that truth.”

‘My whole life has been surrounded by one question: What more can I do?’

From an early age, Martin County High School senior Daniela Mendoza watched as her single mother worked two jobs to support her three children. As the oldest, Mendoza learned how to cook, clean and do laundry to help her mother and two younger brothers.

“My whole life has been surrounded by one question: What more can I do?” Mendoza said. “This question made me who I am and who I will become.”

Mendoza has channeled that desire to do more into a passion for health care. She is enrolled in Martin County High School’s Medical Academy. In her junior year, she earned her medical administrative assistant certification. She’s currently studying to become a certified nursing assistant. She will be a first-generation college student, and she plans to obtain her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Her skill and dedication to her work have made her a top student in her program, said Aimee French, Medical Academy instructor at Martin County High School.

“As a nursing assistant, Daniela completed 20 hours of clinical rotations at Palm City Nursing and Rehab where she participated in patient care,” French said. “During her training, Daniela went above and beyond, taking initiative to learn and expand her knowledge.”

With an admiration for women and mothers and their strength, Mendoza said she wants to go into maternity care. “Women are so strong and powerful, and being able to help a woman push out a beautiful blessing is so rewarding.”

Mendoza also works more than 45 hours a week at two jobs, seven days a week, while making time to volunteer for the Club Pure summer camp in Port St. Lucie.

Community service was a constant theme from this year’s Pathfinder winners.

The overachiever who grew ‘more proud and open with my unique identity’

Science Pathfinder winner Justin Ricketts, a Suncoast High School senior, plans to become a neurologist so he can dedicate his life to ensuring his future patients receive quality care, “regardless of race, gender, economic status or sexuality, to the fullest of my abilities,” he said.

Ricketts grew up in Lake Worth Beach, where he watched neighbors, friends and family members struggle to receive adequate medical care.

One of his greatest challenges growing up was in understanding his sexual identity.

“In high school, I have more often than not been the only Black kid in my advanced classes … or the only gay kid,” Ricketts said. “With the exception of one of my classes in four years, I’ve always been the only Black and gay kid. Regardless, I have grown more proud and open with my unique identity.”

Ricketts scored a perfect 1600 on his SATs, and he is president of Suncoast’s Black Student Union. Last summer, he attended the elite Research Science Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which accepts only 92 students per year.

He has been accepted to Harvard University’s neuroscience program, which he plans to attend before pursuing an MD-PhD.

“Justin is a chameleon of sorts,” said Liesl DeLuera, science teacher at Suncoast. “He is comfortable and confident with peers from many different walks of life; able to find a common ground from which he works collaboratively to achieve a common goal. I have seen this first hand in the classroom and know it to be equally true today.”

Collaboration both in and out of the classroom can be seen among several Pathfinder winners.

A responsibility to live life ‘to its absolute fullest’ for a sister who was stillborn

Pathfinder winners and Spanish River High School seniors Paul Passarelli and Brody Pellegrino dedicated dozens of hours to their work with the nonprofit Clubs2Kids.org, founded and operated by Passarelli with a summer school curriculum written by Pellegrino.

The organization introduces young students, who might not otherwise have the opportunity, to the game of golf. The children are provided equipment, guidance and education.

“For the past two years, it’s been amazing to see children learn to love golf like I do,” said Passarelli, who is this year’s Community Involvement Pathfinder winner for his work with his nonprofit. “We now have eight instructors who teach 110 children, saving local families $66,000 in fees and equipment.”

Passarelli is ranked sixth in his class, and he plans to study either economics or business, then enter the finance industry.

Pellegrino is this year’s Academic Excellence Pathfinder. He is ranked first in his graduating class, scored a 1540 on his SATs, was named an AP Scholar with Distinction by the College Board and plans to pursue a career in finance.

When Pellegrino was in fifth grade, his sister Margo was stillborn. “I thought about Margo never having the chance to take risks, to fall but get back up again, to change the world, to live,” Pellegrino said. “I felt an urgent responsibility to live my life to its absolute fullest for her.”

With that inspiration, Pellegrino in ninth grade joined DECA, a student organization that encourages entrepreneurship. He quickly assumed a leadership position and this year is president of Florida DECA.

“We have not had a DECA Executive President for Florida in many years at River, and we are so proud that Brody has done such an exceptional job representing Spanish River while gaining invaluable experience meeting with other student business leaders from across the state,” said Spanish River Principal Allison Castellano.

Pellegrino has been accepted to and will attend the exclusive Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We congratulate all of the Pathfinder Award winners, as well as the nominees,” The Post’s Christie said. “With the help of their parents and loved ones, these students are laying the groundwork for a great future. We wish them well.”

2021: Pathfinder Winners are Announced

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2021 Pathfinder Awards: WATCH as the winners are announced

Palm Beach Post staff report

2022: Pathfinder winners overcome great challenges 

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2022 Pathfinder winners overcame great challenges in Palm Beach and Martin counties

Giuseppe Sabella
Palm Beach Post

“I was thrown into a classroom where nobody could understand me, and students would bully me for not knowing the language,” Gerig said. “I would ask other Spanish speakers for help, and they would trick me into saying things to embarrass myself.”

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT First - Gabriel Gerig - Inlet Grove High School

Gerig, now a senior at Inlet Grove High School and one of 54 students honored during the 2022 Pathfinder Scholarship Awards, said that family, faith and self-determination fueled his journey.

He earned straight A’s, climbed to the top of his class and recently earned a spot at the prestigious Harvard College.

But it was Gerig’s volunteer work — more than 1,300 hours dedicated to tutoring students, helping at school events and passing out food to local families — that secured his position as the Community Involvement winner during this year’s Pathfinder awards.

The awards, sponsored by The Palm Beach Post, entered their 39th year and gave $3,000 to each of the first-place winners across 18 categories, honoring the high school seniors for their achievements inside and outside the classroom.

“The Pathfinders Scholarship Awards are a tradition unlike any other in Palm Beach and Martin counties, providing an opportunity to put our hardworking high school students center stage,” said Post Executive Editor Rick Christie.

“It is the most significant showing by our communities how much we value education, and the importance of investing in our students,” he said.

“The Palm Beach Post is proud to have been a part of this great tradition from the beginning, and looks forward to continuing that support.”

REACH FOR EXCELLENCE First - Aidan Locke - Jensen Beach High School

Aidan Locke, a student at Jensen Beach High School and this year’s winner in the Reach for Excellence category, turned her challenges into opportunities.

Locke has dyslexia, a learning disability that can make reading difficult. But that struggle motivated Locke to work harder and to advocate not only for herself, but also for the many students who face similar obstacles.

She excelled in school, shared her story at national conferences, pushed for new dyslexia legislation and worked toward her ultimate goal of becoming a special education teacher.

“I cannot think of a more noble course of study than to give back to other students that may find themselves struggling and feeling discouraged and disheartened,” teacher Amanda Cooke said in a letter of recommendation for Locke.

Locke was among the many Pathfinder winners who aspired to make a positive difference in the world.

MATHEMATICS First - Alexander Stone - West Boca Raton High School.

Alexander Stone, who ranked No. 1 in a class of more than 500 students at West Boca Raton High School, plans to major in aerospace engineering.

Stone, this year’s winner in the Mathematics category, said he hoped to advance technology for everyday travel, cargo transportation or space voyages.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE First - Belina Bubenik Parry - Olympic Heights High School

And this year’s winner in the Foreign Language category, Belina Bubenik Parry, is using her gift to pursue a career in diplomacy and international relations.

The Olympic Heights High School senior can speak, write and read in English, Czech, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

Parry — who was also practicing Mandarin, Thai and American Sign Language — said her mother inspired a love of language in the family, along with a spirit of sensitivity and cultural awareness.

Now, Parry has vowed to honor those lessons after her mother’s passing in September.

“Although I’ll never be able to repay my mom for all the wonderful things she did for me, I know I can still make her proud,” she said in her award submission. “That will be her legacy; I will be her legacy.”

This year’s Pathfinder Scholarship Awards garnered hundreds of nominations and honored students with tens of thousands of dollars.

Along with the top prizes, second-and third-place winners earned $2,000 and $1,500, respectively, adding to more than $3.4 million awarded over the event’s history.

“We are proud to recognize the hard work and tenacity shown by the 534 Pathfinder nominees from Palm Beach and Martin County high schools,” said Janie Fogt, president of the Pathfinders’ Board of Directors. “We are able to give 54 scholarships, but if we could, we would love to give so many more.”

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2020 Pathfinder Nominees

2020: Pathfinder winners already paving way to brighter future

Maliyah White, 18, of Dreyfoos School of the Arts, is recorded for a Pathfinders video March 4. [LANNIS WATERS/palmbeachpost.com]

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2020 Pathfinder winners already paving way to brighter future

Here are the winners for the Class of 2020.

By Sonja Isger

More than 500 of the region’s standout high school seniors wrapped all of their academic, artistic, athletic and civic accomplishments into packets just months ago and asked to be counted among the Class of 2020′s elite — to be named a Pathfinder.

Then, just weeks after being grilled by judges in their respective fields, a pandemic swept the globe, pitching their proms, canceling their celebrations and forcing their graduations to be recast for video viewing.

The 37th annual Pathfinder Scholarship Awards ceremony had to switch gears as well.

Since their inception, the awards sponsored by The Palm Beach Post have celebrated soon-to-be graduates from Palm Beach and Martin counties, handing out more than $3.2 million in scholarships to more than 2,450 students.

This year, 54 students earned first, second and third prizes in 18 categories, laying claim to $171,000 in scholarships.

While there was no red-carpet or Kravis Center stage moment, the Pathfinders recognized Wednesday during an online broadcast have proved they can power through the difficult and make hay of most obstacles.

They’ve got this.

Olympic Heights student Francois Khouri survived a childhood punctuated by missile strikes in Syria, fueling a curiosity about political science. His pursuit landed him internships with both the Florida Democratic Party and two local Republican congressional campaigns. Winner in the category of History and Political Science, Khouri is sharing his passion with thousands of YouTube viewers a month through his Political Discourse for Dummies channel.

Repeated family visits to India exposed Science winner Rohan Jakhete to the scourge of poverty and water insecurity. As a student at South Fork High, he developed tools — one patent pending — to purify the polluted and manage the meager. He’s the founder and CEO of two start-ups.

The intersection of invention and water also paid off for Sophia Lloyd George. The Oxbridge Academy student’s work to translate data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and her use of crowdsourcing to map algae caught attention in the Computer Science category.

But her resume, too, is girded by success over adversity. Inspired by an older brother with autism, Lloyd George convinced doubting adults to let her teach computer science to children with the disorder. Her nonprofit, Code Autism, was further propelled by a $14,000 grant.

Park Vista High’s Noah Cabarcas was just looking for fun when he turned learning a new language into a sport with young friends: Who can master another tongue in the shortest amount of time?

But as others lost interest, Cabarcas found new purpose, seeking to better connect with his best friend, a transplant from Brazil.

Tapping YouTube, Duolingo and the international pop music scene, Cabarcas cracked Portuguese well enough to chat with his friend’s family in eight months. He went on to master Italian — that’s what you do when family arrives from Italy for the summer. And French — it began with a class and then took off when a student from the country arrived on campus. The Pathfinder in Foreign Language also speaks Spanish and is chipping away at Japanese and Russian.

“It’s heartening and inspiring to know that our Pathfinders have the qualities that will enable our country not only to emerge from today’s unprecedented crisis, but be better prepared to face similar challenges in the future,″ Palm Beach Post Executive Editor Nick Moschella said. “They are leaders and scholars, driven to succeed and serve their communities with compassion and vision.″

The credentials amassed by this year’s Pathfinders would be the envy of most adults.

In addition to building academic transcripts that rarely, if ever, see anything below a B, they are the editors of their school newspapers and yearbooks; they lead debate clubs, language clubs and clubs for computer coding. Dreyfoos School of the Arts student Elizabeth Sinn has placed second in the Steinway Junior Piano Competition for two years running. Her classmate, Jacqueline Kaskel was a semifinalist in the New York Lyric Opera Theatre Competitions. Jensen Beach High student Sandra Edwards played in the women’s under-19 lacrosse world championships (as a recruit and leader for a nascent Team China, thanks to a grandfather’s bloodline).

Even their spare time is superlative-worthy. Among them, they hold black belts in taekwondo, teach chess, play performance level harp.

And they aspire to do so much more.

At Glades Central, Fabio Louis will be the first in his family to graduate high school and is poised to have his associate’s degree in hand by December. The grandson of Haitians who raised cattle and banana trees and the winner in the Vocational Education category, Louis has set his sights on the science of agriculture. He wants to help solve world hunger.


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