1 of 12: Key Wester a statewide scholarship finalist

Anna Mott is congratulated by John Padget at Key West High School on Tuesday.
Anna Mott is congratulated by John Padget at Key West High School on Tuesday. Keynoter

Anna Mott, a Key West High School senior, plans to become a forensic psychologist, her teachers and mentors know.

So when they conspired to surprise her with a statewide honor — being selected as one of 12 finalists for the annual Leaders 4 Life Scholarship — they buried the evidence.

That’s how Principal Amber Archer Acevedo, Take Stock in Children’s Chuck Licis, Keys education booster and former Keys school superintendent John Padget and others surprised Mott on Tuesday — by calling her out of class to report to a site at the school where they had prepared a cartoonish “crime scene” that only Mott could solve.

What she found was a written announcement telling of her honor as a Take Stock in Children scholar. Take Stock had the entire surprise recorded by a professional videographer.

“I was not expecting this,” Mott, 18, of Key Haven said moments after the big reveal. “It’s just really exciting. It’s great to be even considered.”

Mott is Monroe County’s scholarship nominee and now is one of 12 selected from Take Stock’s 45 programs in Florida. If Mott is next selected as one of six fellows, she will likely graduate from college debt-free, Licis said.

Take Stock In Children matches students on the college track with adult mentors and offers scholarships. Mott also traveled to Japan through the Experiment in International Living program, which immerses students into other cultures.

“She’s self-motivated, inquisitive,” said Sid Goldman, Mott’s mentor since she was in ninth grade. “She researches things just for the love of getting the answer. She controls her own destiny. She’s got her college applications in already.”

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen