The Orlando Orthopaedic Center Foundation continues its commitment to the field of athletic training and sports medicine.  The foundation recently announced the first two recipients of its newly established Chris Payer Honorary Sports Medicine Scholarship. It honors the memory of Central Florida attorney Chris Payer, a Foundation board member who passed away in 2019. The Scholarship is awarded to graduating high school seniors in Orange and Seminole Counties who are pursuing a career in sports medicine.

Lake Nona High School graduate Jackson Andraski and Lake Mary High School graduate Lexi Bailey are the first two recipients and each received a $2,500 college scholarship.  Candidates had the opportunity to apply in early spring.  They submitted an online application, a letter of recommendation from their high school athletic trainer, and a personal essay highlighting their involvement in their school’s student athletic training program and in their community.  

Orlando Orthopaedic Center Foundation President Randy S. Schwartzberg, M.D., made the announcement with both students at a brief virtual news conference on Facebook Live.

“We’re humbled by this opportunity to help these future healthcare professionals and that we are able to present two outstanding local students with the Chris Payer Honorary Sports Medicine Scholarship,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “We know the students will put the scholarships to good use as they pursue their passion to help athletes for years to come.” 

Andraski shared his thoughts about being one of the first two recipients. 

“I feel like it’s a really big honor to be part of the first group to be selected for this scholarship. I think it being for Mr. Payer, and to represent his family, is a big honor for me and my family to be able to impact and keep moving on with his legacy. I will represent him and his family and Orlando Orthopaedic Center Foundation in the best way that I can, moving forward with my career, college and my education.”

Andraski says the $2,500 scholarship will go a long way to help him launch his college education. 

He pointed out, “This will definitely be a big thing for me, helping to fund my education moving forward with my track into sports medicine. I’ll be starting out doing Applied Physiology at the University of Florida, and then hopefully moving on to either Physician’s Assistant school or Sports Medicine Physical Therapist. So this will be a great first step to help me fund these pathways that I”m looking into.”

The Lake Nona High School graduate was an active athlete growing up, playing football and basketball when he was younger and running track in high school. Along the way, he decided his top priority was finding a career to combine his passion for sports with helping people.

“I wanted to shift my focus elsewhere and focus on my academics and my career path choices. So, I thought the perfect way to kind of mend the two together would be sports medicine. I’ve always been very passionate about the science and math side of courses, so I thought it was a perfect fit for me.”

Andraski found the right balance between academics, seeing how an athletic trainer works first hand and serving his fellow students. He achieved academic excellence by earning above a 4.00 GPA throughout his high school years. He aced his high school classes while also being dual enrolled at Valencia College. 

This driven student did more than bury himself in books. Andraski was also involved with the student athletic training program at Lake Nona High School. “It was always something that intrigued me, and I wanted to be part of it,”  he says.

The essay Andraski submitted when he applied for the scholarship shared about his creation of the Get Active Club to mentor elementary and middle school students to just be themselves while staying active outdoors. Andraski wanted to help young students at an age when they might face pressures as they work to figure out where they fit in with their peer group.

Andraski spoke about the club. “I thought it was a great way for myself and the kids to just be around people who are facing similar issues in everyday life to be able to talk about different problems, whether it’s bullying, peer pressure, or they’re struggling with homework. It’s just a nice outlet I wanted to give the kids to be able to get outside for a little bit, and have someone to talk to, which is myself and some of my fellow peers.”

Andraski found his place not as a competitor on the field, but as a strong supporter on the sideline. He believes he will make a difference by helping athletes achieve excellence.

“Since I realized it wasn’t maybe the thing for me to be an athlete myself, the best thing I could do would be to help those athletes when they are trying to be at their best level and perform at the highest level. So I figured, that’s something I’m very passionate about now, sports medicine. Science and sports are just a perfect combination for me and being able to help those people who can do it at a high level is something that I take pride in and find very interesting.”

Andraski is excited to launch his college career at the University of Florida, where his sister is currently studying nursing. He thanks the Orlando Orthopaedic Center Foundation for helping him move down his career path. 

He explained, “I’m very grateful for this opportunity that they selected me, and I’m just grateful they were able to give me the opportunity to be a part of their first group. Being able to meet their criteria is really something very meaningful to me, and I’m looking forward to just continuing to build on the legacy from here.” 

The Orlando Orthopaedic Center Foundation plans to make the Chris Payer Honorary Sports Medicine Scholarship an annual scholarship. Visit OrlandoOrthoFoundation.org for more information about the foundation’s mission and its programs.

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