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RSW Living Magazine

Valerie’s House Announces $30,000 in Inaugural College Scholarships

Valerie’s House CEO Angela Melvin and Marcel Garcia (Naples)

Valerie’s House Announces $30,000 in Inaugural College Scholarships [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

Valerie’s House, a nonprofit organization in Southwest Florida helping children grieve, has awarded $30,000 in college scholarships for graduating high school seniors who have participated in its program.

It’s the first year that Valerie’s House has offered the scholarships of $1,500 per year for four years for a total of $6,000 per student. Five local students were chosen based on an essay they each wrote about their personal grief story and how their loss shaped them as the person they are and the person they want to become. 

The scholarship recipients are:

  • Marcel Garcia of Naples, who graduated from Gulf Coast High School and plans to attend Florida Gulf Coast University;
  • Stori McDougall-Eva of Fort Myers, who graduated from Canterbury School and attends Boston College;
  • Shane Spotz of Cape Coral, who graduated from Cape Coral High School and plans to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville;
  • Austin Wolin of Punta Gorda, who graduated from Island Park High School and plans to attend Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers; and
  • Ashley Zimmerman of Naples, who graduated from Naples High School and plans to attend Southern Union State Community College in Opelika, Ga..

“This is the next step in the grieving process to help these young adults who have lost a loved one,” said Valerie’s House Founder and CEO Angela Melvin.  “We are very grateful to our donors who have made this inaugural scholarship program possible.”

The scholarship funds may be used for classes, materials, or anything they need during the school year.

“The students are to check in with us every semester, show us transcripts with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and tell us something that they worked through that was challenging during the semester, how they worked through it or something great that they accomplished, “ said Staci VanSlambrouch, mentor and family support coordinator who is in charge of the scholarship program.

Valerie’s House first opened its doors with 20 children and their caregivers on the evening of January 11, 2016 in a small house in downtown Fort Myers.  Since then, the organization has grown to help more than 1,000 children and expanded into three locations across Southwest Florida, including one in Naples and Punta Gorda.

One in nine children in Florida is predicted to lose a parent or sibling before the age of 21, according to the 2020 Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model.

Valerie’s House provides a safe, comfortable place for children and their families to heal together following the death of someone they love. Valerie’s House offers support groups and other activities at a home on 1762 Fowler Street in Fort Myers and a home in Naples at 819 Myrtle Terrace. Valerie's House also holds group meetings at First United Methodist Church in Punta Gorda. Valerie's House is a United Way partner agency and is fully supported by community donations.

More information can be found at