$1 million scholarship story not true, teacher says; recipient says he may have been scammed.

May 29, 2015
Nickolas Ponce with his sister Olivia, mother Esmeralda, cousin Elaine Barrera of Florida (second from right) and his father, Cruz.

Nickolas Ponce with his sister Olivia, mother Esmeralda, cousin Elaine Barrera of Florida (second from right) and his father, Cruz.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

Earlier today, OCP Editor Allison Scarbrough posted a story about Hart High School graduate Nickolas Ponce and a $1 million college scholarship he received. Allison interviewed Nickolas face-to-face about this story after she was “tagged” in a Facebook post shared by Sonya Hernandez, a former Hart Public Schools employee. Allison had also been hearing about this scholarship around the community. 

Nickolas provided Allison with a photograph of himself at graduation with a large, prop check that appeared to have been professionally created by a print shop. The check stated pay to the order of Nickolas Ponce for the amount of $1 million and had “Vision Scholarship” written in the memo line along with the signature of a Jimmy Marshall.

Since the story has been posted, we have been contacted by two Hart school employees who claim that the story is false and that Nickolas has claimed to have received several scholarships but has been unable to show any proof of such scholarships to school officials.

“We have asked for a month now and he cannot provide any proof of the scholarships,” a teacher who asked to not be identified said. “Our tech people tracked down the supposed email that arrived of the award and it is fake. There is no Jimmy Marshall (the scholarship source). No one has been able to find any evidence that it is true.”

The teacher claims that this isn’t the first time Nickolas has made up a story and that his GPA is actually much lower than the 3.5 he told Allison in the story. The teacher also stated that Nickolas has told teachers at the school that he is going to Florida and has never mentioned attending Ferris State University.

Allison contacted Nickolas tonight and asked him for a response to the claims that he is not being truthful about the scholarship.

“This is not a lie…not that I know of,” Nickolas said. He suddenly now claims he believes he’s been scammed in the midst of allegations he’s lying about the scholarship.

He stated he was initially contacted about the scholarship in December via email and has only had contact with “Jimmy Marshall” through email.

His story now differs about the huge check that arrived in the mail. During the face-to-face interview this morning, he said it arrived the day of Honors Night. However, he now states it arrived the week before Honors Night, but it wasn’t opened the until that day.

Nickolas said he “will be investigating the scholarship, because I don’t know the validation of it now.”

Editor’s note: On behalf of Oceana County Press, I apologize about posting this misleading story. We take pride in our ability to be a credible and reliable news source to the community. We rely on actual sources for our stories, as we did here — the recipient himself and an adult mentor. Apparently, we were misled, as were many others who have been informed about this scholarship prior to it making the pages of OCP. We believe our unidentified teacher is probably the more reliable source in this matter. We could have easily removed this story and pretended it was never posted, but I believe it is more credible to be up front with our readers and to follow-up on the story instead.