The Giovanni Vitrano Foundation awards the first three scholarships

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — It has been six and a half months since Vitrano, 20, a former Leon football star and TCC student, tragically died in an accident at an apartment complex in Tallahassee.

Despite the injury, her family shone a light in the darkness.

In just six months, the family founded the Giovanni Vitrano Foundation in hopes of awarding scholarships to football stars who excel on the pitch and in the classroom.

On June 2, the organization handed out its first three scholarships, giving three worthy Big Bend soccer stars a total of $7,000 toward college.

“They’re great high school students, athletes, pillars of the community and being able to help out a little bit, I think, is key,” said Foundation President and Gio’s father, Ron Vitrano. “It helps ease the pain of what happened because you know Giovanni passed away six and a half months ago, but to see these young students and athletes walk away with these awards, it warms my heart.”

First, Maddie Kopka, a Sail High School student who played at Florida High, earned a 3.9 GPA and is heading to Trinity Washington University in Washington DC, won a one thousand dollar scholarship.

“It’s really competitive here,” Kopka said of the Tallahassee football scene. “Everyone taking part are great football players…and it’s an honor to win among all these people.”

The grand prize winner, Alejandro Alonso of Gadsden County, had a 3.6 GPA and a dual enrollment student. He is the second in his family to graduate from high school and the first to go to university. He says his family has been a big part of supporting him.

“They’ve always been there to support me and give me the motivation I need when I’m feeling down,” Alonso said of his family who have supported him throughout his journey. “It’s never easy when you do many things in life, but you have to have something to get by. My family was that something.

Finally, Ethan Stewart, a Leon star who is heading to Texas to attend Southwestern Assembly of God University after earning a degree in sports management and children’s ministry, also received a thousand dollar scholarship.

Stewart played with Vitrano during his time on the pitch for “Big Red” and remembers him as a welcoming presence.

“When I first got the call in college, my sophomore year, Gio was the first person to come to me,” recalls Stewart. “He really taught me that in football your team is a family and you can’t really have something like that, so to be able to receive a scholarship in memory of Gio is great. It means I have a part of him who will always be with me.

Maddie Kopka, Alejandro Alonso and Ethan Stewart are the football stars who have excelled on the pitch and in the classroom.

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