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John Van Ryn Scholarship
The YTF presents each year a scholarship to a deserving person who in some way demonstrates an extraordinary
commitment to youth tennis in the State of Florida. The scholarship is named after one of the organization's
most generous and significant benefactors, John Van Ryn.
Recipients for the 2023-2024 John Van Ryn Awards have been selected. The male recipient of the 2023-2024
$1,000 Van Ryn Scholarship is Riley Dodd, who was nominated by Coach Andrew Dickens of Southeastern University.
Riley is from Florida and will be a freshman on the SEU team. He has excellent grades and is a captain
and leader on the team. Coach Dickens said he’s never seen so many friends and family show up to support
a guy in his life.
Riley's tennis accomplishments include:
- Number 1 singles and doubles player all 4 years at Citrus High School
- Undefeated in regular season singles in 2022 and 2023
- Citrus High Tennis MVP all 4 years
- Citrus High Senior Athlete of the Year 2023
- Gulf Coast Conference singles and doubles Champion 2022 and 2023
- Gulf Coast Conference Tennis Player of the Year 2022 and 2023
- District #1 singles Champion 2021, 2022, 2023
- District #1 doubles Champion 2021, 2022, 2023
- State Tournament Qualifier in singles and doubles 2021, 2022, 2023
- State Tournament singles Semi-finalist 2021
- Academic All-State for tennis 2021, 2022, 2023
Riley Dodd and supporters, 2024 recipient
The female $1,000 Van Ryn winner for 2023-2024 is Nicole Cierniak from Venice High School. She was
nominated by Coach DuFaux of the University of Tampa. Nicole is a senior at Venice High School in
Venice, Florida. She is hard working, dedicated, and a student athlete. Nicole takes higher level
classes such as IB English, IB Business, and honors courses where she maintains a 4.1 GPA.
Nicole trains daily and plays USTA tournaments on the weekends. She plays #1 for her high school
team where she has earned Player of the Year in her sophomore and junior year; this is for a three
county Florida area. During the week Nicole also maintains a part time job and has an internship
where she learns time management and other business skills.
Nicole Cierniak, 2024 recipient
She is in an English Honor Society club and last fall after hurricane Ian, she volunteered for
community service to help clean up. Nicole is very focused on many activities in her life. Her
biggest tennis accomplishment was taking third place at the state Bobby Curtis doubles championship.
She has signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Tampa for Fall 2023 and is
very motivated to make the starting lineup as a freshman!
Jolie Miller was selected to be a recipient of the John Van Ryn Award by Pierce Kelley.
She was deeply honored and the camp reassured her that hard-work and character don't go unnoticed.
Jolie was very grateful that her coach for nominated her and she will continue to do her best to
uphold values both on and off the court. (Picture to be sent to Pierce Kelley at a later date).
Jolie Miller, 2023 recipient
Drew Dickens, Head Men's and Women's Tennis Coach at Southeastern University (SEU), nominated male player,
Sam Reeder for the 2022-2023 John Van Ryn Award. Sam is a freshman, who has grown up in Lakeland
Florida. He won the county and district tournament at line 1 for the past two seasons. Coach Dickens
said Sam is a great player and a great addition to the team.
Left to Right, Sam Reeder and Drew Dickens
Two named John Van Ryn Scholarship Award Winners are female player, Elan Mnatsakanov, from Boca Raton and male player, William Priddy, from Naples.
Both players are attending St. Leo University and are very grateful to receive this scholarship from YTF.
John Van Ryn female recipient-Elan Mnatsakanov
John Van Ryn male recipient-William Priddy
It's that time of year again when the coveted John Van Ryn scholarships are being awarded for exceptional
commitment to youth tennis. Check back here often for this year's winners!
|Neleah Neiberline, of Lakeland, FL is the recipient of the first John Van Ryn award for 2021. She attends
McKeel Academy and will attend Southeastern University in the fall. She is pictured with Andrew Dickens, head
coach for the men's and women's varsity tennis teams, on the day she signed her letter of intent. She comes highly
recommended by her high school tennis coach Angie Mudge, sho calls her one fo the best players she has ever coaced, in
addition to being an excellent student.
|Simon Gonzalez is the latest winner of a John Van Ryn Award given to deserving college-bound
players who exemplify good character, ability, and a love for the game of tennis. He is from Miami
and will attend St. Thomas University in the fall after graduating from the Mast Academy, where he
maintained a 4.35 GPA. In addition to his tennis, he is heavily involved at school as a member of
UNICEF, Key Club, Finance Club and a Model United Nations program. He is also engaged in the local
tennis community by serving on the Miami Open ball-person training staff. He trains at the Extreme
Tennis Academy. Simon is pictures with Matthew Roche, head coach of the St. Thomas men's and women's
varsity teams, signing his letter of intent to stay in Miami and play there.
Second 2020 John Van Ryn Recipient Announced
Kiara Tiozzo of Tampa has received the YTF's Second John Van Ryn Award for 2020.
Tiozzo has been playing tennis since she was 8 years old and has been coached by Alex
Golub for the last two years. She has played through all levels of Florida Junior Tennis
and is very excited to be starting her college career right in her hometown at The University
Kiara expressed her excitement and gratitude to the board:
Hi Mr. Kelley, this is Kiara Tiozzo,
I wanted to thank you so much for the scholarship I received. It is
incredibly helpful and I can promise you it will be put to good use!
I’m honored to have been chosen and am so grateful.
I am beyond excited to stay in this city for my college experience.
Thank you so much Mr. Kelley, I will continue working through my college tennis
career to make good use of your generosity.
2020 John Van Ryn Recipient Announced
The Youth Tennis Foundation proudly announces the latest winner for a Van Ryn Scholarship
is Ben Zipay. Ben will be playing tennis at Elon College in central North Carolina.
Ben expressed his gratitude and excitement to the board:
Dear Youth Tennis Foundation,
Again, thank you so much for awarding me the John Van Ryn tennis scholarship! It's amazing
to see all my hard work pay off and I'm extremely grateful to have this Youth Tennis Foundation
financial aid to help pursue tennis and an academic future at Elon! As of now our tennis season
is still planning on starting in the fall. Hopefully this will continue to be the case. I have
spoken to my coach and already received the steps necessary to get the check credited to my account.
Below are the pictures of me at Elon, and receiving the check from my grandma, and board member,
YTF board member Sue Zipay presents the 2020 John
Van Ryn Award to Ben Zipay
The Youth Tennis Foundation proudly selects Reeraw Shamayim Lewis from Lake Worth, FL
as the 2016 winner of the Van Ryn Scholarship.
Englewood's Jessica Lown Receives 2015 John Van Ryn Award
Jessica Lown receives 2015 John Van Ryn Award
from YTF board member Sue Zipay
School responsibilities, part-time jobs and her dream of becoming an aerospace engineer consumes much of Jessica
Lown's time, but she always finds time for tennis!
Jessica's passion for playing, her desire to improve combined with her dedication to helping others makes her
the perfect choice for the 2015 John Van Ryn award presented by the Youth Tennis Foundation.
When the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University sophomore first found tennis at six years of age, it was love
at first sight. Jessica played club tennis, Team Tennis from the 10-under to 18-under divisions, high school
tennis at Lemon Bay High School in Englewood and, this year, completed her first season of college tennis.
"Jessica was a recruited walk-on freshman who has significantly raised her level of play," said David Paschal,
tennis coach at ERAU. "Jessica is a great candidate for this award - her work ethic on and off the tennis court,
her desire to improve and to help others improve, her leadership skills among her peers, her involvement in many
extracurricular activities, her many hours of community service to enhance our programs' recognition within the
community all exemplify her superior qualities."
Jessica, when notified of her selection for the 2015 John Van Ryn award, was thrilled with the honor and
appreciated the financial assistance with her college expenses.
The YTF appreciates Jessica's impressive qualities of leadership, commitment to others and
service to community!
The Youth Tennis Foundation proudly selects Sarah Means of Wesley Chapel as the 2014 winner of the Van Ryn Scholarship.
YTF board member Nancy Morgan and Sarah Means
Sarah completed her junior year at Florida Gulf Coast University with a 3.90 cumulative GPA while pursuing a pre-business management
major. In addition to defending the No. 1 slot on the Eagles women's tennis team, Sarah dedicated herself to helping others learn the
game she loves through volunteering, and was especially touched by her experience assisting in a Special Olympics tennis regional.
Sarah also volunteered in hosting a free summer tennis clinic, at a local elementary school and at various college sporting events. She
placed among the top 15 finalists in the 2014 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award.
"I started playing tennis when I was four and never stopped," said Sarah. "I believe tennis is a special gift for me, and I love giving back."
FGCU coach Courtney Vernon echoes Sarah’s desire to give back and help others.
"Sarah is certainly deserving of this award," said first-year coach Vernon. "My first impression of her was that of professionalism -
she respects authority, never has to be reminded of anything and does the right thing. Her leadership is evident on and off the court."
YTF congratulates Sarah Means!
The Youth Tennis Foundation of Florida is proud to name Melissa Eligio the recipient of the 2013 John Van Ryn
Melissa first discovered tennis as an elementary-age student and, with the support of her parents, developed an early love for
the sport. Her father spent hours on the tennis courts hitting with her until she transitioned from a beginner to a college-level
player this year at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC).
It wasn't just playing the game that intrigued Melissa, but helping others enjoy it as well.
"I am very fortunate to have the support of my parents and a father who would come home from work and take me to play tennis and
teach me what I need to know," said Melissa. "I was not one of the fortunate children that could take private lessons to learn the
game. However, I do feel blessed to have a father that saw the love that I have for the sport and would take the time to teach me.
I believe this instilled the importance of helping other children."
Rick Davis, head tennis coach at the Montessori School of Pensacola, speaks highly of Melissa's devotion to helping others.
"Melissa has always placed other children above herself," said Davis. "As soon as she is in from ABAC, she is the first one to go out
and see all the children at school. She gives back to the community as much as she can, including volunteering at the Pensacola Wheelchair
Tennis Tournament and the University of West Florida Junior Argos.
"Melissa is a great ambassador and leader on and off the court. She is always the first person to volunteer to help anyone."
ABAC head coach Alan Kramer echoes Davis' praise of Melissa and adds that "despite having suffered two ACL tears in the last four years,
Melissa is the heart and soul of our team."
YTF Board member, Scott Harrison, presents Melissa with her check.
YTF is proud to report Melissa is still continuing her work with tennis! Melissa was a camp counselor and a dorm monitor at the
2014 Nike Tennis Camp. Way to go Melissa!
From left, Rick Cuny, Melissa Eligio, Rick Davis, UWF Coach Derrick Racine
and Jacqueline Hruby at UWF Nike Tennis Camp
The Youth Tennis Foundation of Florida is proud to name Kip Jackson the recipient of the 2012 John Van Ryn
Playing tennis since the age of five, Bethune-Cookman University junior Kip Jackson has dedicated himself
to learning tennis and to sharing that knowledge with others.
Last year, he was challenged by his college coach Timothy Pleasant to make the starting lineup. Through
hard work and perseverance, Kip not only made the top six on the squad but was selected to the All-MEAC
(Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) Academic team. At the end of the 2011-2012 season, Kip was voted by
his teammates to captain the team his senior year.
Kip has been a long-time volunteer, first at Arcola Lakes Park near his home in Miami and at Derbyshire
Park in Daytona Beach. This summer, he will continue his volunteer efforts in the Derbyshire Park program
that Coach Pleasant started.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you for making me John Van Ryn Scholarship recipient,
said Kip. “I was thrilled when I learned of my selection for this high honor. I deeply appreciate this
scholarship and your selection of me.
“I can't wait to start my service and giving back to the community. Over the years, I have gained a lot
of experience and knowledge with tennis, and I can not wait to share them with upcoming youth tennis players.
My mission is to inspire them into having the same passion I have for tennis, so they can be able to receive
a scholarship to a university and further their education.
“Thank you again for your generosity and support. I promise you I will continue my hard work into the
community and program. I will definitely give back to young tennis players and my community as a teacher
and student that is passionate about giving back and helping my community.” Sincerely, Kip Jackson
The Youth Tennis Foundation is proud to name Laura Ospina of Holiday and Michael Beiler of Dunedin as the winners
of the 2011 John Van Ryn Scholarship.
Laura was the team captain for East Lake High School's tennis team and is a freshman at Flagler College. Through
the summer, Laura assisted in tennis camps for beginners and prided herself on passing her joy of playing to young
C.J. Obartuck, Laura's high school coach, praised her academic drive, community service record and innate leadership
and said she was of indescribable value to the school community and will match and surpass this in all that she does.
"I have been fortunate in being Miss Ospina's tennis coach during her time at East Lake High School,"
said Obartuck, "and can honestly say she has ignited in me alone a newfound confidence in sending young adults
into future endeavors that I know will positively shape this world and its future."
Michael graduated from Dunedin High School and is a freshman at Florida Gulf Coast University where he received
a partial tennis scholarship. He defended the top position for the Falcons and was named St. Petersburg Times
2011 Player of the Year - quite an achievement in that Michael started tennis late at a late age (10) for tennis
Aaron Currin, lead pastor at Michael's church, praised his dedication to hard work in his passions.
"I have never come across a more upstanding and hard-working young man than Michael Beiler," said Currin.
"His grades, achievements and relationships speak for themselves. I would like to add as his pastor the last
four years, that there is no more deserving recipient of any award or scholarship than this young man."
The 2010 Van Ryan Award was presented to Lindsay Hodgdon, a 2010 graduate of Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg. Lindsay
will attend St. Petersburg College and study hospitality management. She has also earned a spot on the women's tennis team.
Lindsay defended the No. 1 singles position on the high school squad three of four years. She started
playing tennis at the Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis Club in Treasure Island when she was eight years old and has participated
in every season of USTA Junior Team Tennis starting first in the 12-and-under division, then 14s and 18s, as well as
playing numerous sanctioned tournaments.
When not playing tennis, Lindsay has served as a camp counselor for Phil Girardi, Director of Tennis at Treasure Bay
while juggling a part-time job at a local Outback Steakhouse. Phil describes Lindsay as “a great person on and off the
court who has helped other players whenever asked. Phil, who is the St. Petersburg College's women's tennis coach, is
extremely pleased that Lindsay has earned a position on the team.
The YTF proudly presents its John Van Ryn Scholarship to Nateesha Hurtt of Jacksonville. Nateesha is a freshman at
Florida Community College at Jacksonville where she is working on her associate degree.
FCCJ women's tennis coach Mike Stroud recommended Nateesha try out for the team and she is one of six freshmen on the squad.
Nateesha's enthusiasm for tennis and her dedication to improving are combined with her desire to help others learn the
game she loves.
Nateesha played high school tennis at Robert E. Lee and defended the No. 1 position two seasons. In the summers,
Nateesha participated in clinics at the Boone Park Tennis Complex and helped with beginner and advanced beginners classes.