The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce recently announced a new scholarship to honor longtime community leader and educator Ernest Fernandez Jr. (Photo courtesy of Linda Chion.)

By Linda Chion Kenney

A posthumous honor for longtime community leader and educator Ernest Fernandez Jr. kicked off in March at the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, where money was raised for a namesake scholarship program to benefit Brandon High School graduates.

Spearheaded by past chamber Chairs Sandra Murman and Melissa Snively, the Ernest Fernandez Jr. Scholarship Program was introduced to the chamber membership at the group’s annual meeting on March 31 at the Sheraton Tampa Brandon Hotel.

There, Snively of FishHawk, a State Farm insurance agent and school board member, got the ball rolling with requests from the podium for donations. In response, thousands of dollars were committed, a gesture that Brandon High Principal Jeremy Klein, in attendance, recognized in warm and thankful remarks.

Snively, in an interview after the meeting, said she went ‘rogue’ in asking for donations and had anticipated receiving at least $1,000 to get the scholarship established. Instead, about $4,000 was raised, “which means we might be able to award four or five seniors from Brandon High with this namesake scholarship,” she said.

Fernandez died in December 20 at age 83, leaving behind a career in education that spanned 42 years with Hillsborough County Public Schools, where he worked as a teacher, principal and administrator with an eventual focus on adult and community education.

Born on December 2, 1938 in Ybor City, the lifelong Tampa resident attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Academy, The University of Tampa and the University of South Florida. Fernandez served as a Brandon Academy administrator from 1973 through 1986 and was active in the Brandon community, including as a past chamber chair.

Recognizing the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce’s Dr. Earl J. Lennard Scholarship Fund, Snively said she got behind a similar scholarship fund for Fernandez.

“When we started meeting as past chairs every month, after my one-year tenure as chair starting in 2011, that’s when I met Ernest,” Snively said. “He always wanted to talk about education, and especially so after I was elected to the school board. He was always very passionate about education and what we could do as a chamber to help our schools.”

To learn more, contact the chamber at 813-689-1221.

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