He started a scholarship at his high school to honor a
friend and enable future students to have the ‘exact experience I’m
having’

He started a scholarship at his high school to honor a friend and enable future students to have the ‘exact experience I’m having’

Carlos Lamoutte organized a concert that raised $18,000 for the Victor Pena ’16 Annual Financial Aid Scholarship to Tampa Jesuit Catholic High School.

 

TAMPA – The night ended with a set of Latin music, one of Victor Peña’s favorites, and everyone inside the theater on the campus of Jesuit High School was standing and moving something – arms, legs, hips.

It was the final set of a two-hour concert to raise money for a scholarship to honor Victor, Jesuit Class of 2016, who died along with a close friend, Sean Shearman, in a car accident in Tallahassee in October 2020.

Carlos Lamoutte was the bandleader and ringleader. He’s Jesuit Class of ’25. He attends the private, all-male, Catholic high school in Tampa with the help of Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options (FES-EO), managed by Step Up For Students.

His family and the Peña family are close. They attend the same Catholic church near their homes – the Peñas in Brandon and the Lamouttes in Plant City. The children attended the same Catholic elementary school. They’ve vacationed together. Spent days together at the beach.

The scholarship to honor Victor’s memory was Carlos’ idea.

“I can’t imagine who I would be without Jesuit,” Carlos said. “They truly are shaping me into becoming the man I am, and the same exact experience I’m having, I want for others to have, and I know how expensive it is for some families to send their sons here.”

The Victor Pena ’16 Benefit Concert raised $18,000, which will go toward the Victor Pena ’16 Annual Financial Aid Scholarship to Jesuit.

“As Victor’s parents, we are super pleased at this beautiful gesture of the school and Carlito, because if it wasn’t for his spark, and his idea and his organizing, pushing and making the case to school administration officials, it never would have happened,” Victor Peña Sr., said. “He was the linchpin.”

Victor Peña, Jesuit Class of ’16

Carlos, 17, is a talented musician who plays the guitar and piano. He’s also the lead singer of his rock band, The Jesuit Boys, which he formed two years ago with some classmates. They play at Catholic events around Tampa.

Victor was a close friend of Caroline Lamoutte, Carlos’ older sister who is now in medical school at the University of Florida. Carlos saw Victor as an older brother.

“He had a huge, positive impact on my life,” Carlos said. “There is this heaviness in my heart.”

Since Victor’s passing, Carlos had wanted to honor him in some way. It was this past December while having dinner with his parents – Ana and Carlos – that Ana mentioned his music.

“My Mom said, ‘You have this talent, and the Lord has asked you to use this gift for something great because this gift wasn’t given to you just to have fun. It is to make an impact on the world,’ ” Carlos said. “So, I thought, ‘Well, shoot. I’ve always wanted to do something for Victor. This could be it. I can raise money in his name.’ ”

“The light bulb went on,” Ana said, “and from that point on, he was nonstop.”

The Rev. Richard C. Hermes, S.J., president of Jesuit High, didn’t hesitate to say yes when Carlos approached him with the idea of a benefit concert. With guidance from Nick Suszynski, Jesuit’s director of development, and help from other members of the Jesuit staff and a few alumni, Carlos put together a silent auction, food, and musicians for the event.

Carlos and his rock band play their set during the The Victor Pena ’16 Benefit Concert. (Photo courtesy of Jesuit High.)

The crowd of 200 that gathered at the Antinori Center for the Arts included members of the Peña family from Georgia and Miami and former classmates of Victor’s from as far back as grade school. Victor’s brother, Gabriel (Jesuit class of ’17), was the emcee. His sister, Angie, read a poem.

At one point, Lidia Peña, Victor’s mom, joined the band on stage and played a duet of several Cuban dances on the piano with her sister, Lisette Garcia.

“It was right,” Ana said. “It was music. It was dancing. It was food. It was Victor.”

“Victor was definitely there,” said his father. “Victor was a fun-loving guy. He just loved to have fun. We believe in an afterlife, so we really feel that he was a happy camper that night.”

Victor’s family and friends remember him for his larger-than-life personality, his levelheadedness, his strong Catholic faith, his smarts, his ability to bring friends and family together, and his high energy, which everyone agrees was contagious.

Family and friends say the same thing about Carlos.

“I see Victor every time I interact with Carlito,” Victor Sr. said.

Lidia and Victor Peña thank those who attended the benefit concert in memory of their son, Victor. (Photo courtesy of Jesuit High.)

Carlos is an honor roll student who is interested in a music career. He’d like to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville and major in finance or economics with a double major in music business.

Though he is a natural at leading a band on stage and interacting with the audience, organizing the benefit concert has led him to think his future might be on that side of the business — marketing and promotion. Also, working with Suszynski on the concert provided an introduction to the world of fundraising.

“Maybe creating a nonprofit would be something that I’d like to do,” Carlos said. “This has been a super cool experience in that perspective, as well.”

And there is always the medical profession. His other sister, Lauren, is in dental school at the University of Florida.

“Having the (FES-EO) scholarship is a huge blessing,” Carlos said. “With a sister in medical school, a sister in dental school, and me at a private school, my parents didn’t know how they were going to make ends meet. The scholarship came along and it has helped. It’s been such a blessing in my own life.”

Carlos plans to visit Vanderbilt this summer during a trip to Nashville. He knows his senior year will pass quickly, and it will include the big decision of where to go to college and what to study.

He also knows his senior year will include another Victor Pena ’16 Benefit Concert to raise more money for the scholarship fund. In fact, it’s Carlos’ plan that the concert became a yearly staple on the Jesuit social scene, whether he’s involved or not.

“It felt amazing to know that we were all in it together,” Carlos said. “The school wanted to help. The people in the audience wanted to help. And we were making a huge impact to honor Victor and for all these future kids who are going to come to Jesuit in need of financial aid.”

 



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