For any high school senior getting ready to take the next step and go off to college, the uncertainty and excitement of it all can be overwhelming. With the added stress from the pandemic, students everywhere have felt pressure like never before. Given all the circumstances, four local Nashville students have managed to rise above every challenge they've faced to display leadership, determination and resilience.
Recognizing their work and persistence, the Nashville Predators Foundation empowered by SmileDirectClub awarded four students - Kate Castle, Jesa Moore, Elizabeth Swartz and Ricardo Zaragoza Martinez - with its annual Jack Diller Education Award, with a $2,500 scholarship going to each of them to assist with their higher education at the collegiate level.
Named after the first president of the Predators, the Jack Diller Education Award focuses on applicants who are college-bound seniors attending a Nashville or Middle Tennessee area high school. Candidates must display leadership qualities in the classroom and/or inspirational qualities on the athletic field in the sport of their choice, while also maintaining a minimum grade point average of 3.0 from their sophomore to senior year of high school. Additionally, the applicants must demonstrate the value of education, good work ethic and community outreach.
The Preds Foundation has been awarding students with this scholarship since 2006, and this year's four deserving students were outstanding seniors who proved themselves throughout their high school careers.
Here's a look at the four winners of the 2021 Jack Diller Education Award:
Castle, a senior at Wilson Central High School, has played golf for nearly eight years with many trophies and achievements throughout her career. Next fall, she will be attending Milligan University where she will be majoring in social work and playing on its women's golf team.
"Receiving this scholarship means so much to me," Castle said. "I am extremely honored. Being awarded this scholarship has shown me the extent to which my hard work in my school and community is appreciated by my community, which is a reward in itself. Additionally, this scholarship has been a huge source of motivation for me. I am more excited than ever to learn more about how I can help my community prosper and to begin a career that does the same."
She lists her favorite memory of the Predators as being on FangVision when she was awarded the scholarship.
"It was so much fun to be a part of the game, attend the game with my parents, meet the other three recipients, and meet Jack Diller," Castle said.
Ricardo Zaragoza Martinez
Martinez graduated from Gallatin High School and played soccer, ran track, snowboarded and did rock climbing. In between his many activities, Aragoza will attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in the fall where he plans to double major in marketing and engineering.
"This scholarship means a lot to me because it is a great help financially and also motivated me to do better," Martinez said. "This scholarship proved that I must be doing something right within my community and that I should continue to better myself to help my team and community."
Martinez first became a Predators fan during a field trip during his sixth-grade year when the Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks.
"The energy that is brought into the arena by a Predators fan is truly unmatched," Martinez said.
Moore graduated this year from Community High School in Unionville and played basketball and volleyball while also being a part of many leadership organizations. She lists her favorite aspect of the Predators organization as the Bridgestone Arena atmosphere and being with all the fans who are into the game and having fun.
"Being chosen for this scholarship not only means receiving help for college expenses, it also means that it doesn't matter where you come from, if you work hard enough, it will pay off," Moore said. "Growing up in a small town can have its restrictions, but not letting that stand in your way is so important. So, what this scholarship means to me is that all my hard work paid off and that I made a way for my dreams to come true no matter what stood in my way."
In her next steps, Moore will attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a major in history. Her ultimate dream job is to work at the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Swartz attended Hillwood High School in Nashville and has been dancing since she can remember, devoting her time to tap, jazz, ballet and modern styles of dance. In the fall, she will be attending Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., majoring in social entrepreneurship where she intends to pursue a career that will give back to her community.
"I am very grateful to receive the Jack Diller Education Award," Swartz said. "Receiving this scholarship will help reduce the financial burden of college this upcoming year. It will also allow me to attend the college of my choice and pursue my intended major."
Swartz said her grandfather was a big influence on her to become a Predators fan and her favorite player is Roman Josi because of his charitable work for the Nashville community.