Meet our deserving winners, read their bios and leave a few words of encouragement.
= multi-year scholarships awarded!
Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School
Mulberry High School
Tallahassee Communiy College
2022 AAO Scholarship Winner
My name is Alissa Walker and I’m currently a senior in high school. Ever since I was extremely young I’ve found pride in my athletic abilities. I often received a great sense of satisfaction from playing sports. I’ve always planned on pursuing a higher education, but neither of my parents were ever successful or stable. Watching the hardships they faced made me realize I wanted a life completely different from theirs. Unfortunately college seemed very out of reach. Both of my parents were drug addicts, and their irresponsible actions often affected my ability to succeed. As a child I was late to school frequently, or I would even completely miss it because my parents wouldn’t wake up. Eventually situations got worse and my parents weren’t able to hide anymore, my guidance counselor at my school reached out to Child Protective Services. Entering middle school my mom was in rehab, my dad was in prison, and I was living with my grandma. My life was the most stable it had ever been, besides the fact my grandma was incredibly poor. She was barely capable of providing for herself at the time, but she was the only person who could keep me out of foster care. Nearing the end of middle school, my grandma was laid off. She spent the next year frantically trying to find a job, while struggling to keep a roof over our head. At this point in time she emphasized how important getting a good education was. She felt she couldn’t compete in the current job market because she didn’t have a college degree. She pushed me daily to study and plan for the future. As I entered highschool, my mom got sober and decided to move into my grandma's house with us. I got my first job to help my family financially at the beginning of my sophomore year. Six months later, I got a second job in hopes of starting a college savings. Nearing 2020 my grandma had a tragic fall that resulted in many health complications. She went from a seemingly normal elderly woman that was independently caring for herself, to someone who was incapable of every basic function in a matter of a week. She needed my mother and I, for every task imaginable. She suffered from a stroke that left her in a vegetative state. Due to all the pressure, my mother relapsed at the beginning of my junior year. Over the next year, I faced extreme emotional and physical abuse from my mother. She manipulated me and used the circumstances to control me. She knew that I wasn’t able to take care of my grandma by myself, and that no matter what she did to me or took from me, I just had to endure the trauma because I couldn’t leave. Despite the circumstances I worked even harder in school. I joined a brand new soccer team at Mulberry Highschool after not playing soccer for nearly a year and half. Everything felt incredibly natural. I grew extremely close with every teammate I had. The highschool soccer coach, Heath Hunt, had a huge impact on me. He encouraged me and pushed me in ways I would’ve never imagined. He gave me a captain's position on the team, and was a huge reason I was nominated and mentioned by our All County Soccer team. My grandma had also been a huge supporter of my passion for soccer. I can recall being younger and her always using her yearly tax refund to pay for the team I played on. She came to every game. As I played my senior year I felt a new profound love for the sport. Because of this, soccer has a different level of appreciation and importance in my life. It allowed me to cope with my emotions, be involved with a group, make amazing connections, and develop a confidence I never had before. My grandma passed away when I was in the middle of my senior year. My mom gathered her things and left my grandma's house the next day even though I was still a minor. Eventually my great aunts came to collect all of my grandma's belongings and they placed her house for sale within a week of her passing. After the house sold, I moved in with a friend's family, and I plan to stay here until I move for college. I didn’t inherit anything from my grandma's passing, so I wasn’t able to afford a place of my own. I’ve continued to work and save money. The soccer field was the one safe space I had. It was somewhere I was recognized and rewarded. I used it as a distraction from the stress I was facing. Going to college and receiving a higher education to develop a career for myself has always been the light at the end of the tunnel. It has been the only hope I’ve held onto, and a goal that I’ve set for myself my whole life. I currently plan to continue my career at Publix and eventually receive a doctorate in pharmacy.
6750 Crescent Woods Circle
Lakeland FL 33813