In the Florida water, surrounded by manatees, Kendall Hovius found a passion for marine biology.
Her love of the sea brought her to coral reefs in Panama and Costa Rica, took her sailing on the Delaware River and had her volunteering at Adventure Aquarium in Camden.
Now, Hovius is returning to the Sunshine State, where her determination has inspired a full scholarship from Barry University in Miami Shores.
“I screamed really loudly,” the Tabernacle resident said of the moment she learned she was a semifinalist for the exclusive Stamps Scholars program.
As a Stamps Scholar, Hovius’ college experience will be paid for in full and she will receive $6,000 to use for enrichment experiences during school. Hovius was awarded three other full scholarships at other schools, but chose Barry because of its program studying coral reefs and the ability to be a Stamps Scholar.
“College is expensive. It just keeps going up and up and up,” said Hovius’ mother Robin. “We made a plan to go for as little as possible.”
As a Stamps Scholar, Kendall will become a part of a network of others who received the distinction from the Strive Foundation. Previous students have gone on to be Rhodes scholars, studying at universities like Yale, Oxford and Cambridge.
Stamps Scholars are unlike other scholarship recipients. Finalists at Barry write an essay and provide a detailed application, then move through interview rounds. Robin Hovius said school officials consider more than just academics, and instead celebrate hard work and leadership qualities.
Kendall spent most of her final interview talking about playing Dungeons and Dragons with her friends, but her high-school experiences spoke for themselves.
She was a Girl Scout who completed her Gold Award, the highest honor given in the organization. She attends Marine Academy of Science and Technology in Highland. Along with volunteering with Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, Hovius takes dance classes.
“It’s never too early to start doing things and look for what is out there,” she advised. “Even though we’re teenagers and everyone thinks college is when you get your experience, it’s really not.”
To build on her experience, Hovius plans to use her enrichment fund to study abroad. She’s not sure exactly where yet, but Australia, a country on the Red Sea or going back to Panama or Costa Rica are on her short list.
While in Florida, Hovius will be given the opportunity to research the only living coral reef in the U.S. and work toward graduating as part of the school’s honors program.
Recently, she visited Barry to meet with some of its current Stamps Scholars.
“They were incredibly nice, incredibly awesome people who share a lot of the interests and goals that I have,” Hovius noted.
“It feels like I’m going to be in a place with the people who are going to help me become the best version of me.”