GENOA – Bailey Botterman and Zachary Neblock are now Genoa royalty.
“This is just a great experience for me,” Neblock said. “My sisters were both on this court and it’s just incredible for me to win, even though they didn’t. It was also incredible for me to show that all of my hard work has paid off, and that everything that I have done to this date has actually been meaningful.”
Botterman and Neblock, both 18, each won $1,000 scholarships while the eight other finalists all received $100 scholarships.
Neblock plans on going to Kishwaukee College to pursue a career in physical therapy. Botterman will kick start a career in social work by attending the University of Wisconsin Madison in the fall.
Emily Martinez, digital marketing coordinator and administrative assistant for the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce – the entity that organizes the king and queen scholarship – said she has a daughter who recently graduated from Genoa High School and understands the significance of a $1,000 scholarship.
“In the realm of what I saw her applying for, $1,000 is a pretty decent chunk,” Martinez said. “So I would imagine all of [the scholarship applicants] are pretty hopeful to win. ... Because the chamber puts it on, volunteerism and doing things and in around your community, and for your community, are a big part of this scholarship application.”
Martinez said the applicants were asked how many volunteers hours they’ve done, and what their most meaningful volunteering experience was.
This is just a great experience for me. My sisters were both on this court and it’s just incredible for me to win, even though they didn’t. It was also incredible for me to show that all of my hard work has paid off, and that everything that I have done to this date has actually been meaningful.”— Zachary Neblock, Genoa Days King and Queen scholarship winner
To be given the scholarship, the finalists had to win over the hearts and minds of a panel of judges. Those seven judges – comprised of area business owners, as well as community and chamber members – entered their decision making process blind, Martinez said.
All of the applications were evaluated and scored through guidelines set by the scholarship committee. The authors of the applications with the 10 highest scores were selected as finalists.
All finalists appeared on stage Wednesday night, and had a five-minute interview with judges before taking the stage.
Martinez said the interviews give the judges a chance to get to know each applicant outside of their application. She also said the finalists weren’t told what the judges would ask them ahead of their interviews.
When interviews concluded, the contestants and judges walked to the Genoa Days main stage, where they were introduced to the public through a series of questions.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking. I was up there, my legs where shaking, we didn’t know what questions we were going to get. So once they were pulled out of the fishbowl we were like ‘Oh my goodness, we’re getting this one, we’re getting this one,’ but it was definitely a lot of fun at the same time,” Botterman said.
Though the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce puts on the annual scholarship contest, the Genoa-Kingston Fire Protection Department – the Genoa Days organizers – involves the scholarship finalists on the first and last days of the festival.
Neblock and Botterman, along with finalists Aiden Awe, Nathan Brening, Trevor Findley, Molly Johnson, Corinne Lavelle, Nolan Perry, Kaitlin Rahn, Citiali Serna will lead of the Genoa Days parade in downtown Genoa at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Definitely come out to Genoa Days this week, come out to the parade to see us and the rest of the royalty court,” Botterman said.