By Tamas Mondovics

It is safe to say that for Kings High School senior and Brandon resident, Ben Carpenter, hard work has paid off. For him, the dreaded college expenses involved with higher education just got lighter; $10,000 per year for the next four years lighter.

The Leaders 4 Life Fellowship, from the Take Stock in Children program, which in Hillsborough County is supported by the Hillsborough Education Foundation, recognized the International Baccalaureate 12th-grader last month during a surprise event at the school.

The decision to award Carpenter was based on his leadership skills, moral character as well as academic success; he was the first student from Hillsborough County to ever become a finalist, chosen out of approximately 75 students.

The recognition comes with a total of $40,000 to cover the costs of housing, food, textbooks, supplies, transportation and other college-related expenses for attending a four-year public university in Florida.

Carpenter’s parents, Jim and Tari Carpenter, along with his grandparents, Kenneth and Joyce Fitch, were on hand to celebrate and share their joy of Ben’s accomplishment.

“We were all surprised, but very proud of him,” Joyce said about her grandson, who uses a wheelchair, as he was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder.

Referring to Ben’s recognition as a Lightning Community Hero by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation, which he received two years ago for his work in the community, his parents emphasized that their son never received any grade less than an “A” and stands out academically, but has been working hard for the community.

“The wonderful thing about Ben is that he has never let his disability  hold him back or hinder his drive to achieve,” Tari said.

Ben has been accepted into the Honors College at the University of Central Florida and plans to study mechanical engineering.

Ben’s accomplishments also include leading the Tampa Thunder power wheelchair soccer team, being a finalist in the U.S. Army – Pro Football Hall of Fame Award for Excellence, and is a member of the National Honor Society, the French National Honor Society, the Beta Club, the World State Club and a committee member for Relay for Life, just to name a few.

As one of five students in the state who won the Leaders 4 Life Fellowship, Carpenter will be recognized next month during the Take Stock in Children’s annual State Leadership Conference in Tallahassee.

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