Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A is for awe-inspiring at Zephyrhills High School

Valedictorian Luke Thomas, 17, puts in 30 to 35 hours a week at Ben’s Car Wash. He has earned a full ride to the University of Pennsylvania.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

Valedictorian Luke Thomas, 17, puts in 30 to 35 hours a week at Ben’s Car Wash. He has earned a full ride to the University of Pennsylvania.

He has landed a full ride at an Ivy League school: the University of Pennsylvania. Some might say Luke Thomas faces a tough road ahead, but he already knows the meaning of a hard day's work.

Besides attending Zephyrhills High and Pasco-Hernando Community College, Luke puts in 30 to 35 hours a week as an assistant manager and detailer at Ben's Car Wash on Gall Boulevard.

"It's hard juggling all that," said Luke, adding that he has to punch out at 6 p.m. twice a week and head straight to classes at PHCC. "I pay for all my stuff. Car insurance, clothes, cell phone and gas money. And I'm saving for expenses at college."

Going to the University of Pennsylvania is a dream come true. "It's where I really wanted to go. It has the best business school in the nation."

Luke was determined to get there, working hard at everything while dealing with a crisis at home. About a year ago, his father, Gary, was diagnosed with colon cancer and has been in and out of the hospital ever since with complications. His mother, Colleen, works two jobs to keep things afloat.

So going to Penn comes with some mixed feelings.

"I kind of don't want to be that far away from my dad. But my parents are supportive. They want me to go," Luke said. "This has definitely been an experience. I guess it's been a way of preparing me for life. What I have in front of me is probably easier than what I have right now."

Zephyrhills' salutatorian, Abbi Chaffin, got a taste of missionary work a few years ago. That and the fact that she has wanted to be a doctor "ever since I was little" have propelled her.

Abbi has ventured to Anderson, S.C., Jonesboro Beach, Ga., and Fort Walton Beach with other members of First Baptist Church of Wesley Chapel. This summer she'll do mission work in New Orleans, and in 2009, she's off to Brazil.

Doing construction work and conducting backyard Bible classes for kids in impoverished areas is rewarding, Abbi said.

"Some of these kids don't even realize that there are people out there that care about them," she said. "And the parents — when we go to their houses, they are so amazed that teenagers care. It's great to break that stereotype."

Zephyrhills High Valedictorian | Luke Thomas

GPA: 4.57 (weighted)

Future school: University of Pennsylvania

Major: Business

Ideal career: Undecided

Most inspirational person: My mother, Colleen Thomas, because of the strength and integrity she has displayed throughout my father's battle with cancer.

Best advice or quote: "The secret to success is constancy to purpose" — Benjamin Disraeli.

Favorite place on campus: The commons area because it is a place where I can socialize with my peers, thus relieving stresses from my academics.

Favorite book: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

Clubs/extracurriculars: National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, Interact Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, basketball, golf, work at Ben's Car Wash.

If you could, what would you change about the Pasco County or Florida education system? Produce a test that would more accurately assess a student's academics than the FCAT.

Salutatorian | Kristin "Abbi" Chaffin

GPA: 4.46 (weighted)

Future school: Oxford at Emory University

Major: Premedical, chemistry or biology

Ideal career: Missionary surgeon in South America

Most inspirational person/people: My mommy, Lisa Chaffin, and my daddy, Dan Chaffin. Both of them gave up the possibility of having more money in order to help their community and personally raise their five kids. They taught me that people are more important than paychecks.

Best advice or quote: "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom" — James 3:13.

Favorite place on campus: The Bulldog Inn because it allows upperclassmen to congregate and eat together in a cozy restaurantlike environment.

Favorite book: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Clubs/extracurriculars; National Honor Society (president), Interact Club (vice president), Dogo Spanish Music Club, Showstoppers Show Choir, Souled Out Student Minorities Youth Band (captain), teacher's assistant at Wesley Chapel Christian Preschool.

If you could, what would you change about the Pasco County or Florida education system? I wish the Florida education system would incorporate more career training and vocational opportunities for students not planning on attending college rather than focusing on making all students pass the FCAT, a standardized college-preparatory test that some will never need. I believe this will liberate more funding to go toward advanced courses for college-bound students and provide better options for all students. I believe this plan will also reduce the dropout rate immensely.

A is for awe-inspiring at Zephyrhills High School 05/06/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 12:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Encounters: Trial by storm for a rookie principal

    K12

    DUNEDIN — When he nodded off to sleep, the hallway lights outside Michael Vasallo's office were on, so the sudden darkness woke him.

    The glow of his desk phone dimmed.

    Michael Vasallo, right, the first-year principal at Dunedin Highland Middle School, talks with the school's head plant operator Clint Case near the back-up generator on campus. The generator failed just as Hurricane Irma passed through Pinellas County, making for a stressful night. The experience made Vasallo long to return to his regular job, educating middle schoolers. [COLEEN WRIGHT   |   Times]


  2. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree

    Hurricanes

    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  3. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31

    Blogs

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  4. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win

    Blogs

    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.