October 13, 2015
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Zullers and WFFSC give scholars a kick start on college
Jessica Botelho
SOCCER STARS: To celebrate soccer players interested in earning a higher education, the Warwick Fire Fighter Soccer Club teamed up with Michael and Holly Zuller of the Elanna L. Zuller Memorial Sports Fund to give four local high school students $500 college scholarships. Winners included Meghan Hart (front, center) Amanda Ruggieri (second from right), as well as Alessandra Widmann and Brent Parker, who are not shown. Widmann’s father, Dave (left), who stands next to Doyle Byrd, president of the WFFSC, accepted the award for his daughter, while the Zullers help Ruggieri hold her check.

The Warwick Fire Fighter Soccer Club (WFFSC) recently teamed up with Michael and Holly Zuller of the Elanna L. Zuller Memorial Sports Fund to give four local high school students each a $500 college scholarship.

After a committee of three members reviewed submitted essays, Amanda Ruggieri, Meghan Hart, Alessandra Widmann and Brent Parker were honored during a brief ceremony Thursday evening at West Bay Retirement Living. To qualify, students must have played for the Club for at least four years.

“We typically give two $500 scholarships but Michael contacted us and said he’d like to match it,” said Doyle Byrd, president of the WFFSC. “We give them to kids that make us proud.”

The Zullers, who lost their daughter, Elanna, in a car crash this time last year, said they decided to help out because they think it’s something Elanna would have wanted them to do. Elanna played for WFFSC, as well as the Pilgrim soccer team. The Zullers also said it’s a way for them to cope with their loss.

“It feels so good to do something nice for someone,” said Michael, who attended the event with his wife, Holly.

While recipients Widmann and Parker were unable to attend the ceremony, Ruggieri and Hart, who both served as WFFSC coaches, were in attendance. Ruggieri, the valedictorian of Pilgrim’s Class of 2012, will soon be studying biochemistry at Brown University. She said she’s been playing soccer since she was 7 and has always enjoyed the sport.

“I was so excited,” she said when asked how she felt about earning the scholarship. “I didn’t expect it.”

Hart is also a recent Pilgrim High School graduate. She will be studying biology at Rhode Island College this year and has made the soccer team.

“I just love the game,” she said. “It’s fun. You get to meet new people and make new friends.”

Widmann’s father, Dave, accepted the award on his daughter’s behalf, as she is already away at Springfield College in Massachusetts. She will be studying physical therapy and like Hart, has made the soccer team.

“She’s been playing since she was 5,” Dave said.

Interestingly enough, Dave, along with the rest of the winners’ dads, also served as WFFSC coaches. But, said Byrd, the youngest soccer players have an affinity for the younger coaches: “The little ones love the teenagers,” he said.

Parker, a recent Hendricken graduate, is attending Clemson University in South Carolina.

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