Wellington Students Win Top Awards

Wellington Students Win Top Awards Emilia McGovern And Johnathon Bucknor Of Wellington High School Honored With Prestigious Pathfinder Scholarships

By Mike May

Two skilled, creative and industrious members of the Wellington High School Class of 2024 were honored recently as winners of the prestigious Pathfinder Scholarship Awards. Emilia McGovern won first place in the Business category, while Johnathon Bucknor won second place in the Theater Arts category.

McGovern and Bucknor are two of the more than 650 members of this year’s extremely talented crop of WHS graduates, who completed their high school careers on Monday, May 20 at a ceremony held at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

McGovern and Bucknor are already reaping the dividends of their unique skills, creativity and industrial work ethic. On Friday, May 10, both were honored at the annual Pathfinder Scholarship Awards, sponsored by the Palm Beach Post to honor the best and brightest students from across Palm Beach and Martin counties in 18 different categories.

McGovern, who will attend the University of Florida to study public relations, received a $3,000 college scholarship, while Bucknor, who has been accepted into the University of Central Florida, is the recipient of a $2,000 college scholarship. He intends to major in music and minor in theater.

The Business scholarship is awarded to students who have shown the greatest promise in the field of business, entrepreneurship or business innovation. The judging was based on the nominees’ overall academic achievement, demonstrated leadership and contributions made in their community.

The Theatre Arts scholarship is awarded to students who have shown exceptional accomplishment in drama, set/costume design, production and/or stagecraft. Judging was based on the nominees’ expertise in theater arts, overall academic achievement, demonstrated leadership and contributions made in their community.

Both appreciate the financial support from the Pathfinder program.

“I am very thankful for this scholarship,” said McGovern, 18. “It was an honor to be nominated for this scholarship, and I am grateful to the Wellington High School staff and guidance counselors for their support.”

Bucknor, 17, agreed that the opportunities and teacher support provided for him at Wellington High School are the main reasons why he has excelled in theater arts since his arrival on campus as a sophomore.

While accumulating top grades and being a four-year competitive cheerleader and a cheerleader captain during her senior year, McGovern has carved out time to help lead the DECA program at WHS, a high school program that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management through competitive and real-world experiences.

With more than 230 students, the DECA program at WHS is the largest student organization on campus. McGovern has helped plan, organize and direct events for the DECA chapter, which have positively impacted daily life in Wellington.

“She has been leading the school and the DECA chapter in the organization, planning and execution of our annual WHS Trunk or Treat, a fall holiday event for children in the community attended by more than 700 local families,” said teacher Elizabeth Newsome, the DECA advisor at WHS.

“Trunk or Treat impacted 2,000 children and is a student-run event,” noted McGovern, who oversaw the event from beginning to end.

McGovern also helped write two 20-page manuals that detail specific projects that students planned and executed for the DECA chapter, which benefited the Wellington community. Those two projects were “Learning Entrepreneurship with Lexi and Emilia” and “Act Against Allergies.” The first is a project aimed to encourage entrepreneurial abilities, growth mindsets and creativity among fourth graders in local elementary schools via weekly lessons in their classrooms. The second is project-driven through Trunk or Treat to encourage more people in Wellington to offer allergy-friendly alternatives during the Halloween season.

McGovern’s leadership at WHS also garnered the attention of Principal Cara Hayden.

“She has proven to be an asset to our school community, as well as an accomplished student who impresses me daily,” Hayden said. “It is inspiring to see Emilia’s passion as she has worked hard to bring back a sense of camaraderie to our campus following the pandemic.”

As for Bucknor, his passion for theater started when he was in the fifth grade at John Ross Elementary School in Edmond, Oklahoma, where he played the role of an elf in a small student production.

“I like acting because it allows you to be different people,” Bucknor said. “You get to help the audience feel different emotions, such as fear, sadness and happiness.”

Since arriving at WHS, Bucknor has had prominent roles in many theatrical productions, such as Little Women, Don’t Fear the Reaper, Check Please, Trap and Alice by Heart. In Little Women, he had to sing in front of an audience for the first time, and in Alice by Heart, he played the role of Alfred, who dies of tuberculosis at the end of the play. “It was my first death scene,” Bucknor said.

In addition to his many on-stage roles at WHS, Bucknor has also appeared in television commercials for Church’s Chicken, Universal Studios and Old El Paso.

Bucknor’s commitment to theatrical excellence has not gone unnoticed by Cassandra Truelove, one of his theater teachers at WHS.

“Johnathon is always polite and respectful to fellow students and teachers. He writes and records his own music, as well as acting professionally in commercials and other opportunities in his ‘free’ time,” Truelove said. “Johnathon is a perfect example of a scholar and performer. He is deeply invested in his academics, as well as constantly working to improve and fine-tune his craft in acting.”

McGovern will move into her dormitory at UF on Aug. 15 with classes to start soon thereafter, while Bucknor was set to attend UCF’s orientation on May 31 and enroll in summer classes there.

Time will tell what the future holds for McGovern and Bucknor, but chances are strong that they will meet and exceed all expectations.