Riley Jenkins is a senior at Sarasota High School and a recipient of the Sarasota County STRIVE Award. Defying all odds, Riley has risen above seemingly insurmountable challenges in her life. From the moment her dad was arrested again, her life took a hard turn. As a result, Riley has grown up quickly in order to support herself emotionally. Fortunately, she discovered JROTC and theater, which helped her get through her middle school years. Additionally, she also found healing in roller skating at a local skating rink. Although the rink closed, Riley still continues to skate competitively at Astro Skate in Bradenton.
Riley has also endured extreme losses in her life, such as the tragic passing of her grandmother due to stage 4 lung cancer. Since then, she’s been able to overcome her struggles with the help of those closest to her. A constant pillar of strength for Riley is her best friend, Luca—now a psychology major at Murray State University—who has been her saving grace since their meeting in May of 2021 and continues to provide her unconditional support.
This spring, Riley will be graduating from high school and is expected to be pursuing a degree in history or criminal psychology at the Murray State University. To help finance her schooling, Riley has been busy applying for various scholarships.
The Education Foundation of Sarasota County has been championing students and teachers since 1989 in order to transform lives. Through the STRIVE Awards, they recognize the resilience and grit of students across the county who have had to surmount difficult personal challenges. Award recipients are then provided with cash gifts for their post-high-school education and a host of resources such as student success coaching, mentoring, workshops, and more.
Riley’s inspiring story serves to not only emphasise the importance of resilience and inner strength, but also to serve as a reminder to us all that we can overcome all obstacles in our lives. With the support of those around us and the proper resources, anything is achievable.