At the annual Awards Ceremony, there is both an award and a scholarship provided in memory of former IB student, Emily Lester: the Emily Lester Memorial Scholarship, awarded to an IB senior, and the Emily Lester Award, awarded to one or two IB freshmen.

At this year’s May 11 Awards Ceremony, IB senior Caolifhinn McCormack won the Emily Lester Memorial Scholarship.  Tricia Previtera Lester, Emily Lester’s mother, presented the scholarship to Caolifhinn and was unaware that Caolifhinn had been the 9th grade winner of the Emily Lester Award.  This was the first time a student had won both awards!

The family story gets better:  Caolifhinn’s younger brother, IB freshman Shane McCormack, was one of the two winners of the Emily Lester Award this year too! (Hannah Arthur was the other freshman winner.)

Emily Lester was a former SPHS-IB student who died from cancer just before she graduated in 2008.  The SPHS IB program honors her memory every year by selecting one or two IB freshmen to receive the Emily Lester Award.  Students receive a plaque, and their name also is engraved on a plaque that hangs in the IB office.

Additionally, Emily’s parents created a foundation in Emily’s name and select an IB senior each year to receive the Emily Lester Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1000.

Ms. Farias described Emily and the awards.


“I was one of Emily’s 9th grade teachers and she made a big impact on the lives of all of us who knew her.  At SPHS, we consider the Emily Lester Award the top honor a student can receive.

Emily was amazing. She was an incredible young lady who attended SPHS-IB for 9th & 10th grades.  Her struggle with leukemia meant she had to withdraw from IB. Her treatments were long and painful, and often she was in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  She attended Seminole High School for her junior and senior year where she was at the top of her class.

Poem written by Emily Lester about the challenges she faced

She was awarded a scholarship to Duke University and also the $60,000 Barnes Scholarship from the Tampa Bay Times.  She was a finalist for the Robertson Scholarship at Duke, but passed away before she could complete the process.

Emily was a straight A student. She was friendly, fun and a joy to be around.  She was a giving person. She was a Rojan, started the Cancer Support Group at SPHS, and was involved in Relay for Life.

The Emily Lester Award honors her memory.  The recipient of the award exhibits the characteristics that made Emily so special.  The recipient excels academically, has a warm and caring personality and a desire to help others, and they also show determination and perseverance to succeed despite obstacles in their lives.”


Thanks to Ms. Susan Farias, Assistant Principal and IB Coordinator, for information and photos for this article.

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