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Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Announces Inaugural Virginia B. Toulmin Leadership Scholarship Recipient

Sarasota, FL.| April 30, 2024 – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is excited to announce Zuleima Martinez of Sarasota as the award recipient of the inaugural Virginia B. Toulmin Leadership Scholarship. Martinez will be graduating on May 3 with an associate’s degree from the State College of Florida with a 3.72 GPA and will be pursuing her bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of South Florida in Tampa this fall.

The Virginia B. Toulmin Leadership Scholarship, awarded in honor of and in partnership with Selby Gardens President and CEO Jennifer O. Rominiecki as the scholarship’s first mentor, is a merit-based scholarship aimed at recognizing and encouraging female students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievements and leadership qualities. The scholarship includes a $15,000 award provided by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. Through this program, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens seek to contribute to the development of future leaders and professionals who will make meaningful contributions to the non-profit sector and our community. The scholarship will provide a pathway for successful female leadership in the business and nonprofit world by providing mentorship, opportunities to observe leadership in action, and financial support to high-achieving juniors or seniors pursuing bachelor’s degrees and holding a minimum GPA of 3.5.

“The Viginia B. Toulmin Foundation envisions a world in which all people have equal opportunity to fulfill their potential and succeed in life,” states William S. Villafranco, Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Trustee. “Through Virginia’s legacy, we hope to provide a pathway to inspire and support the dreams of young women today. This scholarship exemplifies the Toulmin Foundation’s unwavering commitment to fostering education and supporting outstanding individuals in their pursuit of academic excellence. We congratulate Zuleima Martinez on this tremendous accomplishment.”

Martinez was identified by a scholarship selection committee comprised of several Selby Gardens’ Trustees and major supporters.  She emerged as the leading choice of three finalists selected from a pool of 17 highly qualified applicants. The criteria was based on outstanding academic records, leadership, and a demonstrated commitment to positive community impact.  The 17 candidates represented New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and State College of Florida.

Since the age of 8 years old to present, Martinez has been actively involved with Girls Inc. in Sarasota, a non-profit organization assuring high-impact services for a growing number of girls and advocating on behalf of girls to deliver life-changing programs and experiences. Martinez was a recipient of the organization’s services and now works at Girls Inc. as a program success coordinator. It is the Girls Inc. invocation, “inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold,” which Martinez states she lives by.

Martinez was introduced to the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation during high school when she was presented with the opportunity to film a video about her experience at Girls Inc., “Dreams of my Daughter.” She states, “It was an amazing experience. The girls I facilitate today now look up to me as a role model. I was and still am thankful for that opportunity that the Toulmin Foundation gave my mom and I to share our story.”

Martinez continues, “I grew fond of Mrs. Toulmin for her acts of service to our community and for her initiative towards students and girls like me. I knew that I wanted to be involved in the nonprofit community and getting to know Mrs. Toulmin made me realize that I want to do it and can do it. Knowing what a significant impact Mrs. Toulmin and her legacy had inspired me to follow in her footsteps. I want to make an impact on families’ lives, I want them to have a story to tell, I want mothers to be able to say the dreams of their daughters came true. And in return, my mom will be able to say it herself…The dreams of my daughter came true.”

Martinez remarked, “Life is not fair, life is unpredictable, life is hard, but life is also beautiful, life is exciting, and life is worth it. You can overcome any obstacle and be better than you were yesterday through hard work and determination. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. I know I will learn so much alongside Ms. Rominiecki and I could not be more excited to get to work with such an amazing and inspiring woman.”

Selby Gardens President and CEO Jennifer Rominiecki stated, “Zuleima is a truly exceptional young woman that emulates the ideals of the Virginia B. Toulmin Leadership Scholarship. She is extremely inspiring and exudes high scholastic aptitude, as well as outstanding leadership qualities. Mentorship is critical to professional and personal development, and I am delighted to welcome Zuleima to Selby Gardens for this new initiative.”

In addition to receiving mentoring sessions from Rominiecki, Martinez will be appointed to Selby Gardens’ Advisory Committee to observe Rominiecki in action — participating with local community, scientific and business leaders — and also receive a one-year membership to Selby Gardens.