16-year-old Largo student battling blindness and graduating early awarded college scholarship

WFLA | by Jennifer Peñate

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It was a dream come true for a 16-year-old student at Pinellas Park High School. Jacquelyn Schirmer was surprised with a 2-year Florida prepaid scholarship from nonprofit Florida Taxwatch. 

“This whole situation was unfathomable,” she told 8 On Your Side.  

Life for her hasn’t been easy. 

“I do struggle a lot financially and I have a disability. I have constantly had people around me tell me I can’t do things,” said Schrimer. 

Macular degeneration left her legally blind and forced her to learn braille as a teenager. Despite this, she took on a heavy course load and will graduate a year early. She planned on attending community college, but this scholarship will allow her to attend the University of Florida instead to pursue a business administration degree.  

Faculty and staff at Pinellas Park High School can’t say enough positive things about Schrimer. 

“She’s truly an asset and just an incredible person,” said Principal Brett Patterson. 

Principal Patterson nominated Jacquelyn for the scholarship and he was also honored by Florida Taxwatch with the annual “Principal Leadership Award,” a title given to only three principal in the state. He says the honor was earned by the entire Pinellas Park staff. 

“We’re going to break all barriers and do everything we possibly can to have 100 percent student success and that’s what we come to work to do every day,” he said.

Jacquelyn said she’s grateful for the school staff and their support. She also had advice for those going through their own challenges.  

“Don’t let other people who say, or even your own mind, say anything to put you down. You have to strive, even if it’s small goals one step at a time, you have to strive and achieve your greatness,” she said. 

Principal Patterson will receive his award at an event in Orlando on June 3. 

Image: Jacquelyn Schirmer. Screenshot at WFLA news video.

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