Two Cape Coral high schoolers were honored Thursday at the Cape Coral Police Department's annual "Do The Right Thing" scholarship luncheon.
Marissa Younk, 18, a senior at Ida S. Baker High School, and Natalya Cifuentes-Zabala, 17, a junior at Mariner High School, both Cape residents, were each presented with a one-time $1,000 scholarship for school.
Sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33 and others, the program recognized the winners over lunch at the Outback Steakhouse.
Ida Baker senior Marissa Younk and her presenter, Cape Coral Professional Fire Fighters president Brendan Fonock.
Younk, who plans to major in nursing at Florida Gulf Coast University, explained that she was excited to learn that she was a recipient.
"I really wanted to and I thought I had a chance," she said.
"This is going to pay for my first semester," Younk added.
Along with the scholarship, Younk is planning to rely on Bright Futures, financial aid and a job to cover the costs of her education. She was taking her CNA test following the lunch Thursday and hoped to land a job next.
Younk would like to get into FGCU's anesthesiology program. She already has her associate's degree from Edison State College through dual enrollment.
She wants to work in trauma, as a flight medic or in an operating room.
"I've had a lot of trauma happen to my family members," Younk said.
Her father was in a coma for six months after he fell off a roof while working and broke his skull, and her brother literally broke his face when a garage door smashed it. Her mother and younger brother had cancer.
"I just really feel in love with people," Younk said, adding that she wants to help in trauma situations and wants every day on the job to be different.
Cifuentes-Zabala, who is graduating early, plans to study behavioral psychology at the University of Central Florida. Also dual enrolled at Edison, she became interested in the field after taking a class at the college.
"Why we act the way we act and do the things we do," Cifuentes-Zabala said of what interests her and why she wants to learn more.
Cifuentes-Zabala is also relying on Bright Futures and financial aid.
"That does help quite a bit," she said of the scholarship.
Cifuentes-Zabala applied for a handful of scholarships but had not heard back when she learned that she was one of the Do The Right Thing recipients.
"I was beginning to wonder what was wrong. It was really emotional for me," she said. "I'm so honored to be here today."
Diagnosed with lupus five years ago, Cifuentes-Zabala pushed through, participating in multiple honor societies and being actively involved in her community. She was even a member of the CCPD Police Explorers unit.
"That was so much fun getting to know the officers," she said.
Cifuentes-Zabala said the disease only fuels her motivation.
"It's still part of my everyday life," she said.
Elected officials, public safety leaders and others attended Thursday.
Cape Police Chief Jay Murphy pointed out that the Do The Right Thing program is the legacy of former Police Chief Arnold Gibbs. He initiated the program while serving in Miami and started the program in the Cape.
"This program survives for two reasons," Murphy said.
He cited the youth doing good and the supportive community.
Cape Fire Chief Tim Hayes explained that if a community encourages its younger residents and provides them with the opportunity to succeed in life, they can make something of themselves and give back to the community.
"We need to have more programs like this," he said.