Silver Garland launch a success

The longest running service award program in Polk County returned after a year-long break.

The Silver Garland Awards program was started more than 45 years ago by the then New York Times owned Lakeland Ledger, who sought to honor the outstanding volunteerism of area students. However, when the economic pressures of the changing media industry left the Ledger staff unable to accommodate the program, they reached out to PCTSM to keep it alive.

“When the staff at the Ledger reached out to us, I was skeptical,” said Director of PCTSM, Mark Jackson. “It was only after lengthy research that showed similar programs around the nation are virtually student retention programs that I changed my mind.”

Armed with the mission of inspiring college-bound talent to return to Polk County after they get their degree, staff met with counselors, re-imagined the program and recruited judges. Numerous partners, including the CFDC, Rodda Construction and all the local colleges contributed both time and effort to the program, while new partners, like Rob Kincart of A-C-T Environmental and Infrastructure Inc. and SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo, helped open new pathways by suggesting new categories.

In the end, more than 250 students applied and more than 160 were interviewed by 13 three-judge panels during the morning of Feb. 8 at the AdventHealth Fieldhouse and Convention Center in Winter Haven.  The top three candidates in each category will be invited to the April 13 awards ceremony, this time in Theatre Winter Haven at the fieldhouse, where the winners will be revealed. Each category winner will receive a check for $1,000.