From “Odd Ball” Class to Lifelong Passion

Categories: EMPOWERMENT AND SUCCESS: Scholarships & Mentoring, SCHOLARSHIPS: Students Under 24 Years of Age,

Editor's Note: Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, we will be sharing dispatches and sentiments from students receiving scholarships from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Our third guest author is Alexis Vargas, recipient of the Lela D. Jackson Scholarship.

Hello! My name is Alexis Vargas and I have lived in beautiful Sarasota, Florida, my whole life, for which I am incredibly lucky and grateful. I am a member of Riverview High School’s graduating class of 2020 and now attending Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

In so many ways, I am thankful to go to a college that reminds me of my home. I am hopeful to progress my interest in Marine Science as a major, although I am aware of all the changes and budding, new interests that I will develop along my journey of self-discovery! I also have expressed some interest in studying the Spanish language, having found such a love for the language and culture in my father’s Mexican heritage. In addition to these, during my first semester of college, I have begun to recognize my growing passion for the expressive use of clothing and the sustainability and the fun that can be found from it!

With that, I would love to use this blog as a way to speak on the importance of cultivating interests while in the developing adulthood stages of your life. I hope you enjoy.


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A photo of Angel (far left), Anna (second from right), and Alexis (far right) in Mexico, adventuring with their late father’s older brother and cousin.

As an individual grows and matures, from a child to adolescence to adulthood, interests and identity are inclined to change— either drastically or gradually. Realizations may happen at any time of someone’s life, in the early teenage years, all the way through your adult life. Within such a large timeframe, spanning a vast array of experiences, why limit yourself to doing only one thing you love? I have a strong belief that being aware of these realizations and new interests (even the ones in the back of your mind!) can be so beneficial to you and your life in the long run.

I’ve had several factors that have influenced my aspirations for education and career. My heritage is a component that has greatly impacted my aspirations. My father was born in Mexico and came to the United States when he was 17 years old. A few year later, he met my mother and I was his first child. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2007. The absence of a father made my mother take on both roles of a paternal and maternal figure. While being raised by a strong, independent woman, I was raised with the concepts of respect and notability prominent in my mind. I believe the exceptional worth I have exemplified in my schoolwork, character, and volunteer experiences has changed the way I view my aspirations. I was a quiet, shy girl, but now, I reach for unthinkable heights.

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Alexis' father and her older sister, Christina. Her sister is a prominent figure that Alexis looks up to both now and when she was younger.

Having a Hispanic background, my mother encouraged me to learn the language and understand the culture, since my father is not here to do so. My younger sisters and I travel to Mexico every summer to visit my grandparents and extended family. Whenever we visit, we are surrounded by such immense love. In the parts of Mexico that I have seen, I’ve witnessed the less fortunate. Going to places, experiencing the lack of money and resources, gives me the desire to help others through their difficulties.

Coming back home every trip and starting the next school year, I realized the abundance of opportunities offered and resources available to me. Life experiences such as summer trips, like mine to Mexico, have the ability to shape mindsets and aspirations for years to come. I want to further my education because being a first-generation college student is something that empowers and inspires me. With all the aid provided, why wouldn’t someone take advantage of it and further themselves for life? I have all the necessities for the next phase, I need to utilize them to the best of my ability.

This brings me back to my chosen path in college: marine science. Rewinding back to high school, I realized I had a passion for studying science in my sophomore year, the first year I explored a marine science class. I had not recognized my love for it until the middle of that year when I saw I was excelling at it, as well as helping others learn and study it. The following year, this budding interest led me to pursue many different classes in the science realm, such as chemistry, IB marine science, and astronomy (this was my “odd ball” class!).

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Alexis looking through a microscope for microplastics in a sample dish in her Executive Internship class, which involved marine science, at Riverview High School.

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A photo of Alexis in her astronomy class! As she put it, “I absolutely loved learning in here and the planetarium! I went on to become an intern for my Honors Astronomy teacher and learn how to operate the planetarium at Riverview High School. This was an amazing experience.”

Whenever my sisters or their friends asked me what classes they should take in the upcoming school year, I found myself urging them to take a class that truly peaks their interests or causes them to think in a totally different manner. The results from taking that “odd ball” class could be tremendous!

My interest in sciences have made an impact on my educational and career aspirations. I have consistently heard the phrase, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” I never knew that this would resonate with me and my decision for a career so much. Marine science has easily been the pinnacle for development of my aspirations, and now I am equipped with the inspiration from my mentors to continue my education with a master’s and perhaps even a PhD.

With this trajectory in mind, even now, as I explore my growing interest in the expressive use of sustainable clothing, I am excited to discover how my many passions complement one another and can add value not only to my life but to the world.


Change should be completely expected in a young person’s path. Everyone should maintain an open mind to recognize and begin to nurture these realizations of a budding, new passion. So, if any of the readers are sitting on the edge of trying something you always wanted to try, I encourage you to go for it! You never know what the outcome could be.

Lastly, I would love to thank the Scholarship Committee at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for recognizing my hard work and selecting me as a recipient of an incredibly generous scholarship (as well as allowing me to share my learning experiences and background with this blog post). Your support means so much to me and my family, as it enables me to reach for my dreams.

Thank you, again.


To learn more about scholarship opportunities at the Community Foundation, visit cfsarasota.org/students/scholarship-opportunities.

To share your Scholarship Story, contact us at Communications@CFSarasota.org.