To meet 17-year-old Mackenzie Ireland is to be charmed by her.
Sweet and smart, it's easy to be caught up in her youthful exuberance over the possibilities of life.
The Lemon Bay High School graduate (May 18 grad ceremony), winner of the $1,000 Boca Grande Art Alliance scholarship this season, is headed to the University of Central Florida to pursue a major in hospitality management and a minor in fine arts.
Boca Grande Art Alliance scholarship winner Mackenzie Ireland, 17, with a self-portrait that helped her win the honor.
Her BGAA scholarship will be continued and possibly increased as long as academic performance warrants. Here are some of Ireland's thoughts on working at the Gasparilla Inn & Club, moving into her own place for the first time in her life and what the Boca Grande Art Alliance scholarship will do for her collegiate career.
QUESTION: Why choose UCF for your next level of education?
ANSWER: It has the best college hospitality program in the country. We researched it. My dad actually found it.
Mackenzie Ireland at a glance
Birth date: Nov. 15, 1994
Family: youngest in family with two sisters and a brother
Education: Graduated Lemon Bay High School in three years.
Work experience: Worked at the Gasparilla Inn & Club and the Pink Elephant on Boca Grande
Plans: Headed to the University of Central Florida
Q: I suppose your family wanted to keep you a little close to home?
A: They supported wherever I wanted to go.
Q: How did you become involved with the Boca Grande Art Alliance scholarship program?
A: My teacher sent in this self-portrait I did to Ann Shaw, (chairwoman of the BGAA Scholarship Committee).
Q: Your self-portrait helped you win the scholarship. What went into the making of this piece of work?
A: I love how I did the hands. I worked really hard on those just to show the shading and the depth of the hand, like the knuckles. I worked really hard on the face, just the skin complexion, to capture it.
Q: What do want a viewer to take away from this artwork?
A: I want them to think it's happy. I want them to feel happy looking at it knowing that just looking at something like artwork can make them happy.
Q: How would you describe your artistic style?
A: It's modern. I really love details. I think they are important. I keep it simple.
Q: What learning program will you spend your education money on?
A: I'd like to major in hospitality management and minor in fine arts.
Q: What triggered your interest in those areas?
A: I think the majority is just how much I've traveled throughout my life. The aspect of traveling - where you stay is most important and the most interesting part of the trip.
Q: Where was one of your most inspiring hotel stays?
A: That's tough. I used to work at the Gasparilla Inn at turndowns and I like how homey it feels. It's almost old and ancient, kind of, because it's such an old building. But I like how some of the places I've been where technology has been incorporated with it.
Q: What sort of technological incorporations are you talking about?
A: Like the rising automatic blinds in the morning at a hotel I stayed at in France. The door required your fingerprints to open it. As soon as you walked in the lights were automatics, which was really cool.
Q: When not traveling or creating art, what are your hobbies?
A: I have a 14-foot sailboat I call "Laser." I love to sail.
Q: How often do you take Laser out?
A: Not as much as I'd like. I used to be part of the Englewood Sailing Association and we could go out every weekend and do stuff together. But school, work and a change in ownership keep me from going out more.
Q: After just three years of hard work, you graduate from Lemon bay High School Friday. Have you thought of what it will mean to leave LBHS?
A: I'm so excited to experience everything on my own. I'm also very anxious and nervous about what's coming up.
Q: Will this be the first time you will be living on your own?
A: Yes. I'm renting an apartment with my boyfriend. We've been saving for our expenses.
Q: Have you chosen a presidential candidate to cast your first vote for in the Nov. 6 presidential election?
A: I've picked Mitt Romney if he becomes the Republican candidate. I really like where he's going with it and I think he could promote some good changes for us
Q: What would like to see improved in your hometown area as you prepare to head off for college?
A: I just want more people to be involved in art. There are no local classes for kids. I want more art festivals for us to do. At school, it was a big deal when art shows were coming up. We'd get prepared for it and really excited to know who gets to participate in it. If there were more, it would be more exciting.