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Clearwater High Senior Star at Scholarship Competition

Emma Foroutan, a senior at Clearwater High School, was voted "audience favorite" and took first place for vocal at the ninth annual Walker Rising Stars scholarship competition recently at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Finding a way to pay for college tuition just became a little easier for Emma Foroutan.

The Clearwater High School senior took home first place at the ninth annual Walker Rising Stars scholarship competition recently at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

The competition featured about 25 local young artists on the rise in their respective creative fields including other Clearwater area students; Jordan Rodnizki (Countryside); Rosalie Bradford (Clearwater); Ben Rophie (Clearwater); and Eric Vander Weit (Countryside).

From dance to drama, instrumental music to video arts, visual arts and vocal performance, the juniors and seniors from high schools throughout Pinellas County competed in front of a crowd of about 1,800 people. 

Four finalists from each category performed in front of judges for the night’s final round of the competition.

“It’s astounding to see the talent these young people possess above and beyond their academic acumen,” said John A. Stewart, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools. “Having the opportunity to see their immense talent showcased in this high-quality production is something for which we can all be grateful.”

25 Students Won More Than $60,000

More than $60,000 in scholarship money was awarded to 25 of this year’s finalists. First-place winners of each of the five categories received $5,000. Second, third and fourth place winners received $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 in their respective divisions.

Audience members had the opportunity to text in their favorite performance of the night, courtesy of Verizon Wireless.

Deemed the “audience favorite,” Emma Foroutan, a senior at Clearwater High School, won first place and $5,000 in scholarship money for vocal performance. She also won the majority of attendees’ votes, singing Not for the Life of Me from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Foroutan received a tablet donated by Verizon Wireless, a chauffeured limousine service for an evening, and a gift card to dine at a Baystar Restaurant. 

Competition Was Started by a Local Philanthropist

Originally founded by Dr. Jeffrey Walker, a local neurosurgeon, the competition has been held annually since 2003 in conjunction with the Pinellas Education Foundation and Pinellas County schools.

“Students who apply aren’t required to pursue a career in the arts — only to participate while in school,” said Tamra Eital, director of communications for the Pinellas Education Foundation.

This year’s competition received 248 applications, which were due in early November along with an essay. The competition’s first round of auditions began in January. Visual artists’ portfolios were due in early January, and video arts students’ videos were due in early February.

Preliminary and semifinals took place before the night’s finale performances.

Eitel said it’s necessary to have several rounds of the competition due to the number of applications received each year.

Winners Pursue a Variety of Majors and Careers

The scholarship money awarded to the finalists will help pay for their tuition for college or technical school.

Eitel said that finalists from the competition have gone on to attend a variety of colleges.

“It ranges across the board,” Eitel said. “We’ve had students go to NYU, USF, UF, New England Conservatory, Indiana University, Juilliard, Harvard, Purdue, UCF, University of Miami and many more.”

She added that Walker finalists have also gone on to pursue careers in medicine, engineering, theater, music, dance, mortuary science, veterinary medicine, education, production, writing and others.

Eitel said it is important to support young musicians because she believes there is strong evidence that music training benefits students in math and language education.

“It is important to encourage students to participate in the arts in our schools as the academic benefits have been cited in various studies, and it helps produce more well-rounded young adults.”

This Year's Winners

The 2012 Walker Rising Star Scholarship Competition award winners are:

Place

First Name

Last Name

School Name

Discipline

Scholarship Amount

1

Lindsey

Norton

East Lake High

Dance

$5,000

2

Kenneth

Shelby

Gibbs High

Dance

$3,000

3

Ashley

Caprio

Palm Harbor University High

Dance

$2,000

4

Marquis

Floyd

Gibbs High

Dance

$1,000

1

Tabitha

Perez

Gibbs High

Drama

$5,000

2

Cory

Phelps

Osceola High

Drama

$3,000

3

Jordan

Rodnizki

Countryside High

Drama

$2,000

4

Rebekka

Walker

Gibbs High

Drama

$1,000

1

Aaron

Lehrian

Seminole High

Instrumental Music (Piano)

$5,000

2

Kaitlyn

Resler

Gibbs High

Instrumental Music (French Horn)

$3,000

3

Zachery

Burgett

Gibbs High

Instrumental Music (Guitar)

$2,000

4

Andrea

Tafelski

Gibbs High

Instrumental Music (Percussion)

$1,000

1

Kayla

Gaffney

Palm Harbor University High

Video Arts

$5,000

2

Martin

Coleman

Palm Harbor University High

Video Arts

$3,000

3

Savannah

Clawson

East Lake High

Video Arts

$2,000

4

Rosalie

Bradford

Clearwater High

Video Arts

$500

4

Ben

Rophie

Clearwater High

Video Arts

$500

1

Sidney

Howard

St. Petersburg High

Visual Arts

$5,000

2

John

Schmittau

Gibbs High

Visual Arts

$3,000

3

Dorey

Passmore

St. Petersburg High

Visual Arts

$2,000

4

Sarah

Duncan

St. Petersburg High

Visual Arts

$1,000

1

Emma

Foroutan

Clearwater High

Vocal Performance

$5,000

2

Eric

Vander Weit

Countryside High

Vocal Performance

$3,000

3

Peter

Jackson

Largo High

Vocal Performance

$2,000

4

Kerry

Caraballo

Gibbs High

Vocal Performance

$1,000

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