Two local grads welcomed into honors program at UF

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Two graduating seniors from the Ponte Vedra area are among the 36 honors scholars in the incoming class of 2025 at the University of Florida.

Ponte Vedra High School graduate Katherine Bi-Ji was welcomed as a Lombardi Scholar in the university’s Honors Program. Allen D. Nease graduate Izabela Zmirksa is a recipient of the university’s Stamps Scholarship.

The John V. Lombardi Scholarship and Stamps Scholarship are premier undergraduate awards that fully fund four summers of enrichment experiences, including three international programs and a weeklong domestic leadership expedition.

Eleven scholars will travel to Maine this summer to take part in a weeklong sailing expedition with the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School along the Eastern Seaboard. In summer 2022, the scholars will travel to the Yucatán Peninsula for five weeks to study the ecology of tropical Mexico and the Maya culture with the UF in Mérida study-abroad program.

Katherine Bi-Ji was her school’s first female wrestler and was an active member of the varsity swim team. She has tutored refugee children with jaxTHRIVE, organized annual remembrance walks for victims of gun violence in a leadership role on Students Demand Action and is dedicated to six honor societies.

She is pursuing a degree in finance and is planning for a career in the legal field. She was a four-year delegate in the Model United Nations and served on the executive board for Women in Model United Nations as chapter organizer.

Izabela Zmirksa plans to major in biomedical engineering. She has won the International Sustainable Chain of Transportation Competition as a member of an all-girls team. She also founded the Upcycling Club and created the Doorsteps to Donations campaign to provide items for shelters across Northeast Florida.

She has also self-directed research on diatoms and epiphyton through the Young Scholars Program.

“It is a pleasure to welcome this remarkable group of students into the Honors Program,” said Honors Associate Director Regan Garner, who coordinates the internal scholarships. “Honors scholars come to UF seeking academic rigor, rich experiences and limitless opportunity. I am confident our program and the broader campus community will support them with the resources they need to thrive.”

Honors scholars receive a stipend of $2,700 each fall and spring for eight semesters or until they earn an undergraduate degree.

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