Pinellas County high school students stepped on stage to show off their talents this month and many walked away with thousands of dollars in scholarship funding.
They sang and played instruments, danced and acted out theatrical scenes. It was all part of the 14th Annual Walker’s Rising Stars Scholarship Competition at St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater on May 9.
The yearly event celebrating young talent throughout the county is coordinated by the Pinellas Education Foundation and presented by Bill Edwards Presents, Inc. Its sponsors include Kane’s Furniture and Crown Automotive Group.
More than 250 juniors and seniors applied to compete in the seven-month process of auditions and adjudication, according to the Pinellas Education Foundation’s Tamra Burr.
Contestants compete in six artistic categories: Culinary Arts, Dance, Instrumental, Theater, Visual Art and Vocal. Scholarships are provided to the top four finalists in each category and audience members get to vote for their favorite performance.
First-place winners received a $5,000 scholarship. Second through fourth place finishers received scholarships of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Burr reported that approximately $60,000 in scholarships and prizes was distributed by the Pinellas Education Foundation.
The Culinary Arts category was slightly different, with the top three finishers receiving scholarships from the Ryan Wells Foundation.
Of the 23 scholarship winners, eight attend North Pinellas high schools and four of them placed first.
Dunedin junior Maria White won Dance, and junior Bo Fei Wang and senior Lindsey Collins of Palm Harbor University won Instrumental and Vocal, respectively. Tarpon Springs senior Summer Huelle earned a $1,500 scholarship for winning the Culinary Arts category.
Other North Pinellas winners were PHU junior Cristina Brown, Dance, fourth place; PHU senior Ramiro Capano, Theater, third place; PHU junior Shayna Gilberg, Theater, fourth place; and Tarpon Springs junior Robert Diaz, Instrumental, third place.
An estimated 600 people came to Mahaffey Theater and about 4,500 “virtual fans” participated online on Facebook. Boca Ciega senior Solie White, Vocal, and Gibbs junior Ernesto Perez, Visual Art, received Fan Favorite honors and MacBook Pro Laptops as a reward.
The Tarpon Springs High Jazz Ensemble entertained the audience between performances.