Gulf Winds Credit Union Provides $20,000 in Scholarship Funding

Gulf Winds Credit Union provided $20,000 in scholarships to four graduating high school seniors, Kayla McKillion, Tayler Mills, Nicholas Skoufis and Sierra Ziglar. Each was awarded $5,000 to further their education at a higher learning institution.

Gulf Winds received 43 applications for the Scholarship Program, designed to support first-year undergraduate students that are members of the Credit Union. “We had a record number of applicants this year,” said Chris Rutledge, CEO/President of Gulf Winds. “The quality of the applications indicates that our future is bright as the next generation of leaders comes into their own.”

Applications are reviewed by a committee consisting of senior-level Credit Union employees that evaluate each applicant’s academic achievements, community involvement, personal essay, letters of recommendation and financial need. “Our four scholarship recipients distinguished themselves academically and exemplify Gulf Winds’ commitment to family and community,” said Gulf Winds Executive and Scholarship Committee member Kurt Stenerson. “We are proud to support the next step in their journey.”

The journey for this year’s scholarship recipients has been much different than previous years.  The coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close and interrupted milestone moments like prom and graduation. “You only get to experience your high school senior year once,” said Kayla, a senior at Northview High School. “I am disappointed that I do not get to fully experience mine.”

While extracurricular activities are being missed, classes are continuing through online platforms. “I was not too worried to move to all online classes,” said Sierra, a home-schooled senior. “However, it has been a little more difficult than I had anticipated.” Kayla agreed with this sentiment, “I was finding it hard to stay motivated, but now that I have gotten used to online school, the situation is not so bad.” For these seniors, virtual classes are not an excuse to lower their academic standard. “I am still maintaining all A’s,” reports Tayler, a senior at Tate High School.

The pandemic has also required these students to make other changes to their daily routines. “As the low risk member of my family, I am the designated person to run errands, pick up food and unbox deliveries,” said Nicholas Skoufis, a senior at Pensacola High School. “I also shop for groceries and deliver prescription medications to my grandparent’s retirement community.” There has been some extra time to pick up some new hobbies, however. Sierra has been trying new recipes and is learning to keep bees with her father, who manages over 1,000 hives. Tayler has been running, riding bikes and even learned to skateboard.

No matter the missed events and life changes, all four scholarship recipients have learned from the pandemic and maintain a positive attitude. Kayla said, “A life altering event can happen at any time. This quarantine has taught me to cherish each moment.” Sierra summed up her experience saying, “I finished my last semester of high school, Chick-fil-A is still open, and I have spent some amazing time with my family and loved ones.”

2020 Scholarship Recipient’s Profiles

Kayla McKillion

Kayla McKillion

Kayla lives in Molino, FL and will graduate from Northview High School. She'll be attending the University of West Florida where she plans to enroll in the nursing program. At Northview High School, Kayla was Yearbook Chief Editor, Beta Club President, and Secretary for the Student Government Association. She was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and placed first in the FBLA journalism competition in January of 2020. Kayla was also active in the community as a volunteer for Miracle League, the YMCA, and Little League of Pensacola, amongst others.

Tayler Mills

Tayler Mills

Tayler lives in Pensacola, FL and will graduate from J.M. Tate High School. She will be attending Florida State University’s School of Communication to study digital media and sports broadcasting with ambitions of becoming a sports analyst and broadcaster. At J.M. Tate High School, Tayler was Student Body President, Debate Club President, and a member of several clubs including the Sign Language Club and Foreign Language Club. Tayler was also voted “Ms. Tate” and Homecoming Queen during her senior year. She has been active in the community, especially with Shriners International, where she has volunteered for over 300 hours. Tayler was also a volunteer for Miracle League, Special Olympics, Meals of Hope, Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House. 

Nicholas Skoufis

Nicholas Skoufis

Nicholas lives in Pensacola, FL and will graduate from Pensacola High School’s International Baccalaureate Program. He will be attending Vanderbilt University to study Biomedical Engineering with ambitions of going to medical school. At Pensacola High School, Nicholas was the Academic Team President, Science National Honor Society President, Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Future Health Professionals Club President, and a state medalist in Science Olympiad and History Fair. He was also active in the community earning his Eagle Scout designation from Boy Scouts and founding an after-school STEM program at C.A. Weis Elementary School. Nicholas completed over 400 hours of community service during high school.

Sierra Ziglar

Sierra Ziglar

Sierra lives in Molino, FL and will graduate from homeschool. She will be attending the University of West Florida where she plans to complete the nursing program. Sierra is interested in a medical career after witnessing the need for medical service through extensive volunteering efforts. She has volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse in El Salvador at the medical clinic and orphanage, with Mission to the World at a nursing home, with Emerald Coast Pediatrics doing patient care and triage, and with For the Nations Refugees in Dallas where she taught English to elementary school children. Sierra was a varsity soccer and track player for Tate High School and received the Fellowship of Christian Athlete Award in 2019.

About the Gulf Winds Scholarship Program

Since 2007, Gulf Winds has provided $182,500 in scholarships to 53 first-year continuing education students that are members of the Credit Union. The Gulf Winds scholarships are named to honor pioneer members of the credit union for their dedicated service to its members. In memory of these important leaders, scholarships are established in the names of Rufus Caton, Louis Lambert, Lola Stephens and Al Evans, Jr.