Jupiter High student who lost home in fire awarded $10K scholarship years later

'I found that I need to persevere, work harder, and manage my time better. Doing all those things helped out a bunch,' Giovani Aguilera says
Giovani Aguilera awarded scholarship by chamber of commerce April 2024.png
Posted at 12:00 PM, Apr 17, 2024

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — When Giovani Aguilera was a sophomore at Jupiter High School, the unthinkable happened to his family of six.

He said his house caught fire early one morning, leaving barely enough time for his family to safely get out.

From there, he said, his family endured several challenges like transportation, moving further from the school’s campus, and rebuilding a home.

Now, the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce is giving him their largest scholarship ever for his resilience.

A total of four Palm Beach County high school seniors received a little help to pay for college from the chamber, as they gave out $21,000 at an event in Palm Beach Gardens Wednesday morning.

Aguilera said he’s going to use everything he learned during that hardship to get through the next four years of college and beyond.

“I think it’s all about finding new passions and being able to deal with change. That’s what really helped me,” he said. “I found that I need to persevere, work harder, and manage my time better. Doing all those things helped out a bunch.”

Giovani Aguilera awarded scholarship by the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce on April 17 2024..png
Giovani Aguilera awarded scholarship by the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce on April 17, 2024.

Three other students from Palm Beach County were honored.

Kaelyn Haines, a senior at Inlet Grove Community School, is planning on pursuing a career in the legal and justice field. According to her introduction at Wednesday’s breakfast, her passion for justice started when she watched legal and crime shows, and she became curious about the way law enforcement officers process situations.

Heline Hoim is graduating from Suncoast High School. She was honored for her leadership and involvement in the honor society, as well as being a student athlete, competing in weightlifting, and track and field.

Finally, Jacob Wallace, who was not present at the event but was honored, is graduating from Oxbridge Academy. Announcers introduced him and shared his story of dealing with dyslexia, while studying English literature. He also plans to attend Florida State University.

“Being able to get help, financially, for college, takes a lot of stress off my shoulders,” Aguilera said.

The chamber also honored 22 teachers from across northern Palm Beach County.

Below is a complete list of the winners:

  • Students:
    • Cary Stamp Scholarship: Kaelyn Haines
    • John C. Giba Leadership Award: Helina Hoim
    • John C. Giba Leadership Award: Jacob Wallace
    • Palm Beach North Education Foundation Scholarship: Giovanni Aguilera
  • Teachers:
    • Elementary School
      • Alyssa Oliver, Jupiter Elementary School
      • Amanda Birney, Jupiter Farms Elementary School
      • April Crist, Marsh Pointe Elementary School
      • Chris Martini, Timber Trace Elementary School
      • Denise Whelan, Jerry Thomas Elementary School
      • Erica Mardis, Grove Park Elementary School
      • Heather Johnson, Palm Beach Gardens Elementary School
      • Latoya Wilson, Washington Elementary School
      • Lisa Engel, Allamanda Elementary School
      • Maureen Almeida, Limestone Creek Elementary School
      • Tammy Trivison, Lighthouse Elementary School
      • Tiffany Law, Lake Park Elementary School
      • Tony Fernandez, Beacon Cove Intermediate School
    • Middle School
      • Christopher Sparks, Watson B. Duncan Middle School
      • Emilia Turek, Independence Middle School
      • Laticia Hanna, Dwight D. Eisenhower K-8
      • Natasha Wheatley, Howell L. Watkins Middle School
      • Sireesha Rutter, Jupiter Middle School
    • High School
      • Joseph Schwab, Suncoast Community High School
      • Shanterra Johnson, Palm Beach Gardens High School
      • Sue Diaz, Jupiter High School