Croatian community supports young footballers with inaugural scholarships

Auckland City striker Stipe Ukich is one of two young Croatian footballers to receive inaugural Davorin Ozich Youth Scholarships for their sporting and academic achievements.

Ukich (20) and Mia Grgicevich (20) have been presented with scholarships of $2,500 each at a ceremony at the Croatian Cultural Society in Te Atatu, Auckland.

Ukich won the sporting category of the scholarship prize, while Grgicevich, who is playing college football in the United States, won the academic category of the prize.

The scholarship awards were announced on June 8, 2024, at the Croatian Cultural Society’s annual Dan Državnosti (Statehood Day) event.

Age group international Ukich helped Auckland City claim the OFC Champions League title in May and has represented New Zealand in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Ukich hopes to use his scholarship funds to support his pursuit of professional football overseas, and he says he feels supported by the Croatian community.

“The aid this scholarship provides will help me grow as a person and also pursue my dream of becoming a professional footballer,” he says.

Main photo: From left, scholarship panel judge Christine Ozich, sporting scholarship winner Stipe Ukich, Croatian Cultural Society president Len Stulich and scholarship panel judge Marija Batistich. Photo credit: Croatian Cultural Society.

Stipe Ukich … plans a career as a professional footballer.

Grgicevich is studying at Rider University in New Jersey, United States, where she is a student-athlete, playing collegiate football.

However, it was her academic success that particularly stood out to the scholarship panel, who commended her for consistently making the College’s Dean’s List (which recognises academic success) each semester and maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.96 out of 4.00.

Grgicevich says she will use the scholarship to complete her degree in finance.

“Receiving this award is incredibly meaningful to me,” Grgicevich says.

“My culture and Croatian heritage have played a significant role in my life, and I feel honoured to represent not just myself but our entire community on this journey.”

The Davorin Ozich Youth Scholarship was launched in 2024 to recognise young Croatians who show talent, promise and dedication to their endeavours. It is named in honour of the late Davorin Ozich, the founding President of the Croatian Cultural Society of NZ.

Each year, $2,500 may be awarded in each of four categories: academic, sporting, entrepreneurial and cultural.

This year, the judging panel also awarded two highly commended entries, to Vito Kačurov (17) and Anton Vrdoljak (18).

The panel also acknowledged the high calibre of scholarship applications overall.

“The Davorin Ozich Youth Scholarship is a wonderful opportunity for the Croatian Cultural Society to support our youth and encourage them to connect with their culture and their society,” says panel judge Christine Ozich, wife of the late Davorin Ozich. “It’s really fantastic to see that the future of our culture in New Zealand is in excellent hands.”

More information

More information about the scholarship is available on the Croatian Cultural Society website >>>>

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