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BRADENTON, FL -- The 10th annual Sunripe Golf Classic, held April 18 at the Legacy Golf Club, here, saw continued strong support from the produce industry, raising $80,000 to endow a scholarship program at the University of South Florida that benefits the children of migrant farmworkers.

To date, the Sunripe Golf Classic, held each year at this Arnold Palmer signature golf course, has raised close to $1.2 million for the Sunripe Migrant Scholarship Fund. The tournament is fully underwritten by the Esformes, Heller and Collier families, principals in Pacific Tomato Growers, Pacific Triple E, Pacific Collier Fresh, Sunripe Pre-Pak and Heller Bros., meaning that 100 percent of the proceeds go to endow the scholarship.

This year, 13 students benefited from the scholarship, and so far 27 students who were beneficiaries of the program have graduated and are in teaching or administrative positions.

"We are proud of our migrant education scholars and grateful for our partnership with Sunripe," said Colleen Kennedy, dean of the USF College of Education. "Many of the recipients worked in the fields with their families, never dreaming that they would be able to pursue a university education. Thanks to Sunripe, these students have a promise and a pathway to become educators and educational leaders."

Ann Cranston-Gringas, a professor of special education and director of the university's Center for Migrant Education, said, "The scholarship benefits not only the students themselves but the communities where they return to work after they graduate."

"I used to pick with my parents, and I know what kind of life that is," said Cynthia Baltazar, a scholarship recipient and a graduate of the university, who is now teaching at an area high school. "Thank you so much. Without the scholarship, I wouldn't have been able to do it."

The Sunripe Golf Classic was the brainchild of William Gross, former marketing director of Pacific Tomato Growers, who came up with the idea to raise funds to help the children of migrant farmworkers. The tournament receives wide support from industry and allied organizations through participation in the tournament as well as the donation of money, goods and services.