Living The Rev. King’s dream

Eastside High senior awarded the Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Award


Jennifer Kizza will be recognized for her academic and community achievements.

Sarah Kiewel/Correspondent
Published: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 5:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 5:37 p.m.

Many high school students feel the constant pressure from parents to get better grades and participate in more extracurricular activities. But the push-and-pull relationship between Eastside High School senior Jennifer Kizza and her parents has always been a little different.

“Her mom and I have often cautioned her not to take on additional commitments because of her already-limited time,” said Peter Nkedi-Kizza, Jennifer’s father and a professor at the University of Florida. “It’s unbelievable how much she does around the clock.”

Jennifer’s accomplishments, which include a weighted 5.0 grade point average in Eastside’s International Baccalaureate Program, student body president, captain of the girls varsity soccer team, 2011 Alachua County Sunshine State Scholar and 2011 Scholar Athlete of the Year, maker her the recipient this year of the Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Award by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida.

“This award is presented to a high school senior who espouses those principals of nonviolent social change through outstanding community service and academic excellence,” said founder and president of the commission Rodney Long, who started the award in 1989. “Many of those who have received the award have gone on to become doctors, lawyers and professors.”

Jennifer, who has been accepted to Stanford University as well as five other schools nationwide, said she hopes to follow in her predecessors’ footsteps as a pediatric doctor, specializing in oncology.

“It’s amazing to know how phenomenal the past recipients are and to be a part of that group,” said Jennifer, who submit transcripts, letters of recommendation and a resume and essay to be considered for the award. “People always say, ‘you do so much,’ but I am doing things that I love.”

In addition to her academic success, Jennifer has volunteered hundreds of hours at Shands, as an usher at her church, a volunteer tutor to her peers, and vice president in her school’s breast cancer awareness organization.

“Her resume is impressive, but her impact is greater than the sum of her achievements in academics, sports and clubs,” said EHS principal Jeff Charbonnet. “Jennifer is a genuine force devoted to improving her school and the scholastic experience for all students.”

As the award recipient, Jennifer will attend some of the many Martin Luther King Jr. festivities in Gainesville, including the 27th annual Hall of Fame Banquet at the Paramount Plaza and the National Holiday Kick-off Program at Bo Diddley Community Plaza, where she will deliver the keynote address.

“Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my idols,” Jennifer said. “To be associated with him through this award is really amazing.”

The Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Award, named in honor of a commission board member and educator in the community, gives recipients a minimum $5,000 scholarship over their four-year college experience, courtesy of corporate sponsors, Long said.

“Education is paramount to reducing poverty.” Long said. “We’re happy to assist in any way possible to allow students to further their education and become beacons of hope and mentor other students to show them that they, too, can succeed.”

People who know Jennifer said they expect her to continue to achieve.

“An unstoppable combination of brains, communication skills, passion, and determination comes together in Jennifer,” Charbonnet said. “Given her strong values and passion for making the world a better place, I know she will be successful in whatever she does.”

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