Students recognized for good character through Joe Kordick Youth Character Awards

As people around the world self-isolate to slow the spread of COVID-19, many time-honored traditions and rituals have been canceled or modified. To adapt to this challenging time, United Way of Martin County found creative ways to recognize students who were honored for their outstanding character through the Joe Kordick Youth Character Awards.

Presented by United Way of Martin County’s CHARACTER COUNTS! program and sponsored by Phyllis Kordick; Kramer, Sopko & Copeland, PA; Tykes & Teens, Inc.; and Treasure Coast Legal, the awards are presented annually to middle school students and high school seniors in the Martin County School District.

This year instead of honoring students during a ceremony, CHARACTER COUNTS! advisory board members surprised recipients by placing signs at their homes that read “A Joe Kordick Youth Character Award Winner Lives Here.” Seniors’ names were displayed on the electronic billboard in Stuart thanks to the sponsorship of Treasure Coast Legal. Seniors were also presented with a $1,000 cash award and middle school recipients were presented with a plaque.

“While we’re disappointed that the pandemic has altered our plans, it’s actually an ideal time to applaud good character because challenging times reveal our true values, priorities and character as individuals and as a society,” said Martin County School Board Member and CHARACTER COUNTS! Advisory Board Committee Member Victoria Defenthaler. The Joe Kordick Youth Character Awards are named in honor of the late Joe Kordick, founding chairman and the driving force of CHARACTER COUNTS! in Martin County. He believed that character development starts at home, but also felt strongly that by bringing parents, teachers, community leaders, and businesses together, everyone could share the task of teaching young people to be responsible and to live with integrity.

This year, numerous nominations were received from schools and the community. Nominations of the students are based solely on their character; those students whose lives and achievements demonstrate an enduring commitment to the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, fairness, caring and citizenship. A panel of judges from the community made the final selection based upon the students’ essays, their community involvement, leadership qualities, how they have dealt with and overcome obstacles in their lives, and personal interviews with the high school finalists.

Middle School Award Recipients

  • Javaris Hampton, Indiantown Middle School
  • Howe, Indiantown Middle School
  • Brenda Lopez-Martinez, Indiantown Middle School 
  • Sawyer Skinner, Murray Middle School
  • Brynn Stoneburg, Stuart Middle School
  • Brooks Seidman, Stuart Middle School

High School Recipients

  • Mackenzie Abbott, Clark Advanced Learning Center
  • Abbie Nauss, Clark Advanced Learning Center 
  • Lily Kayton, Jensen Beach High School
  • Ashley Wiggins, Jensen Beach High School
  • Zachary Ludemann, Martin County High School
  • Steven McPherson, Martin County High School
  • Ryan Mitchell, Martin County High School
  • Christian Molina, Martin County High School
  • Madeline France, Martin County High School 
  • Johanna Cruz-Deleon, South Fork High School

United Way of Martin County’s CHARACTER COUNTS! program is focused on building a community of good character. Although highly identified with schools, CHARACTER COUNTS! is an initiative for people of all ages and walks of life and is embraced by government, law enforcement and businesses in Martin County. CHARACTER COUNTS! encourages everyone to uphold the Six Pillars of Character as they go on with their daily lives. For more information about CHARACTER COUNTS!, visit About United Way of Martin County United Way of Martin County’s mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. Since 1972, the United Way has been working to create long-term social change and provide support to Martin County residents by investing in programs that strive to: enhance healthy living, improve education and support financial stability. For more information about United Way of Martin County, visit or call 772-283-4800.