Ding’ Awards $30K For Environmental Scholarships


“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge has awarded $30,700 in conservation education scholarships to 14 students from 5 local counties. During its 15-year history, the DDWS Environmental Scholarship Program has awarded $199,500 to students.

“The society is committed to educating today’s youth to become future conservation stewards,” said DDWS Education Committee Chair Wendy Kindig. “We work with businesses, families, and individuals to provide annual scholarships to award to outstanding students pursuing degrees related to conservation, wildlife biology, environmental engineering, policy, and science. A big thank you to our scholarship sponsors for their support.”

Eleven donors sponsored the 14 scholarships this year.

Two Richard Bailey Scholarships, named in memory of a longtime refuge volunteer and donated by his family, went to Blade Kalikow, a recent graduate of Community High School of Naples, who is headed to Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. to study environmental engineering; and Izabella Ferjiani, who graduated from Lemon Bay High in Englewood and will be studying marine science at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Mike and Terry Baldwin Scholarship, named for DDWS’ immediate past president and his wife, an emeritus board member, went to Mallory Poff, a Barron Collier High (Naples) alumnus who studies environmental engineering at Elon University in North Carolina.

Dara Craig, originally from Sanibel Island and a Cypress Lake High (Fort Myers) alumnus attending graduate school at the University of Oregon’s environmental sciences program, received the Dr. Andrew and Laura Dahlem Scholarship. The Dahlems live part-time on Sanibel Island; their family honors them with a named scholarship.

Robert Marlin Smith, a North Fort Myers alumnus who studies marine and environmental science at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Fort Myers, Fla., received the Dr. H. Randall Deming Endowed Scholarship for Conservation & Environmental Studies. Deming’s family established the scholarship in 2016 as a permanent endowed scholarship in his memory.

Skyler Lowden, a Fort Myers High alumnus attending the University of Miami in the field of architecture, was awarded the “Ding” Darling Conservation Scholarship, made possible by an anonymous donor.

Two Leslie & Hans Fleischner Scholarships went to Shannon Dougherty, a Cape Coral High graduate who intends to study sustainability science at Mercer University in Atlanta, Ga.; and Gulf Coast High (Naples) graduate Micah Evans, who will be attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., to study ocean engineering. The Fleischners are part-time Sanibel residents whose love of the island’s environment has inspired them to sponsor the scholarships for several years.

Alexandria Henson, a graduate of North Fort Myers High who will be majoring in environmental studies at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, received the Mary Elaine Jacobson Memorial Scholarship, made possible by the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society.

In honor of the late, long-time DDWS board and Education Committee member and her husband, and in partnership with DDWS, the Win and Marilyn Kloosterman Memorial Scholarship went to Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) graduate student Taylor Sorrell, an alumnus of Palmetto Ridge High in Naples who is studying biological engineering.

William Sobczak, a Barron Collier High (Naples) alumnus who studies environmental engineering at UF, received the Barry and Francine Litofsky Scholarship, in memory of two former refuge volunteers.

The Tarpon Bay Explorers Scholarship went to North Fort Myers High graduate Tate Williams, who will study environmental engineering at FGCU. Tarpon Bay Explorers, “Ding” Darling’s recreation concession, started the original DDWS scholarship program in 2006.

Two Jane Werner Endowed Environmental Scholarships, established in 2011 as DDWS’ first permanent endowed scholarship, went to Alexandra Polk, a Fort Myers High alumnus who studies environmental science and marine biology at the University of South Florida in Tampa; and Mark Leone, who previously attended Estero High and the FGCU Accelerated Collegiate Experience program, and now heads to Stanford University in Stanford, Cal., to major in civil engineering. The family of the late Jane Werner, who volunteered at the refuge for 25 years, set up the scholarship fund in her honor.

DDWS will be awarding scholarships starting at $1,000 each at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. High school seniors and college students living in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades, and Hendry counties and pursuing careers in biology, conservation, and environmental studies are eligible.