By Eddie Bird
With an unusual spring semester for the class of 2020, one thing remains the norm, an opportunity to receive a prestigious scholarship named to honor Taylor Haugen’s legacy. Haugen, T as his friends and family called him, passed away from an abdominal injury sustained while playing football for Niceville High School in 2008. After some fundraising by Niceville High School students, a scholarship for a Niceville graduating senior was created to honor Taylor’s legacy. Known demonstrating a balance of academics, athleticism, leadership, community service and Christian faith, while living by his motto of “Don’t Quit… Never Give Up.”
The Taylor Haugen Foundation has expanded the scholarships to offer six annual scholarships to highly qualified, senior athletes from four Northwest Florida counties — Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Bay and Walton. Applicants write an essay speaking of their perseverance and “Don’t Quit… Never Give Up” story. Requirements come from Taylor’s character traits of academics, athletics, leadership, community service and Christian faith.
Brooke O’Keefe of Fort Walton Beach High School was named as one of the three Okaloosa County recipients. Brooke graduates with a 4.5 GPA and nearly 400 community service hours. She was the captain of the cheerleading team while also lettering in flag football. Brooke was Miss Destin 2019 and named to the Viking Hall of Fame. Her leader and faith was very evident to the scholarship committee. Brooke has lived with a “Don’t Quit… Never Give Up” mindset after losing her father to cancer. She told her teacher she has an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness for what Jesus has done in her life.
Another Fort Walton Beach High School student, Tori Orcutt, received one of the Okaloosa County scholarships endowed by Roy and Clara Parisot. Tori graduates with a 4.75 GPA, 4th in her class and over 1,000 community service hours. She lettered in swim, cross country, track and soccer. She plans to swim at the University of Kentucky in the fall. An accomplished athlete, she has also competed with USA Pentathlon nation team. Other awards include National High School Heisman Winner, Girl Scouts Gold Award, All Sports Scholastic Winner and Viking Hall of Fame. Tori spoke of the hardships in her athletics and the struggles of moving around the country with the military. She credits all her perseverance to God being her strength and refuge.
The scholarship designated for a Niceville High School senior was awarded to Clara Beth LaFollette. She graduates 5th out of a class of 500 and with a GPA of 4.75. She captained the cross country team and won a state championship, while also running track. At Niceville, Clara Beth served as the Key Club president, Science National Honor Society president and NaGISA head extern. With NaGISA, she traveled to England to be a presenter at the Marine Biological Association.
The Dugas Family Foundation endowed Walton County Taylor Haugen Scholarship was awarded to Clay Lawrence of South Walton High School. Recently, Lawrence graduates with a 4.47 GPA and top 10 in his class. His leadership and desire to serve the people around him stood out to the scholarship committee. He is heavily involved with his church, being a leader in their student ministry to help disciple the younger students. Clay’s “Don’t Quit… Never Give Up” story told of learning a new sport after multiple concussions from football, the sport he had always dreamed of playing.
Anna Marks of Gulf Breeze High School was named the Santa Rosa County Taylor Haugen Scholarship winner and Kaylan Gunning from Arnold High School received the Bay County Taylor Haugen Scholarship endowed by The St. Joe Community Foundation.