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Eastern Florida Student is Named Florida Top Scholar


Kayla Duchaine
Kayla Duchaine

April 7, 2014 - An Eastern Florida State College student has been named the top scholar on the All-Florida Academic Team for her achievements in the classroom and community.

Kayla Duchaine, 20, received the honor from the Florida College System which names the team annually to highlight its best and brightest students.

Three other Eastern Florida students are also made the 109-member All-Florida Academic Team. They are Amy Covel, Debra Kowalczyk and Matthew Lipphardt.

“I wasn’t expecting this at all but it means a lot because I have huge dreams,” said Kayla, who will receive the 2014 Coca-Cola New Century Scholarship given to the top scholar.

Eastern Florida President Dr. Jim Richey called Kayla’s award “impressive beyond words,” and praised her dedication as a student and strength of character.

“Kayla’s academic and community commitment makes her a role model for other students and everyone who lives along the Space Coast,” said Richey. “All of us at the college are extremely proud of her."

Kayla will receive her Associate in Arts Degree in May and plans to attend Oral Roberts University for a Bachelor’s Degree in biochemistry before attending medical school.

Her goal is to become a pediatrician and work in Third World nations to “help children who are dying every day, and do everything I can to stop it.”

Kayla is preparing for that career now by serving as a campus leader and spending time in Africa with physicians who are treating residents in impoverished villages.

At Eastern Florida, she has served as recording secretary in both the Student Government Association and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

As part of her chapter's Honors in Action project, Kayla assumed a leadership role in fundraising efforts to purchase water purification systems for disaster-hit areas of the world.

Through her work, the chapter raised $28,000 and purchased a dozen systems that were distributed worldwide.

Off campus, she has accumulated 300 hours of community service, earning the distinction of Citizen Scholar in the college’s Service Learning Program.

She also works as a math tutor and children’s music teacher, and volunteers as a dance leader, children's school assistant and piano player at her Messianic Jewish synagogue.

Kayla spent a month last summer in Malawi where she traveled from village to village with a team providing free medical and eye-glass clinics.

“It was a life changing experience, opening my eyes to how I can help people who need it the most,” she said.

This summer, she plans to return to Africa for two months to continue her work as a medical assistant in Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Kayla has received many honors, including Excellence in Math, Excellence in Writing and Excellence in Leadership awards from Eastern Florida.

She recently received the 2014 Guistwhite scholarship and was selected to the 2014 All-USA Community College Academic Team, one of just 20 students selected nationwide from 1,700 nominations.

Kayla will receive her top scholar honor during an April 24 ceremony at Walt Disney World in Orlando where the other members of the All-Florida Academic Team will also be recognized.

Among them will be Covel, Kowalczyk and Lipphardt.

Covel, who is pursuing an Associate in Arts Degree, is a Florida Medallion Scholar and has received an Eastern Florida State College Academic Excellence Award.

Kowalczyk will be graduating in May with an Associate in Science, Chemical Technology Degree.

Lipphardt will also graduate in May with an Associate in Arts Degree.

“Amy, Debra and Matthew are among the best students in Florida, and I know they have highly successful careers and lives ahead of them,” said Richey.