Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Athena Society's Young Women of Promise challenge, inspire

The highlights I chose to praise the 10 winners of the Athena Society's Dr. Sylvia Richardson Young Women of Promise award changed each time I told someone about Thursday's inspiring luncheon.

In one setting, I spoke of the courage of these 10 remarkable high school juniors by explaining how Leto High's Ana Gomez not only revealed that bouts with homelessness and domestic abuse dot her past, but how she challenged this impressive room of accomplished women.

"When you recognize pain in this world, do something about it," Ana said.

Asked by someone else about the events of the day, I shared how Plant High's Sarah Cimino founded her own nonprofit after witnessing unbelievable poverty on a mission trip to Haiti. After Teens for Haiti raised more than $12,000, a new generator powers an entire Haitian village.

"It was incredible to see my work and the work of all my friends," Sarah said. "I love that I was able to help, but this was God's work. I'm just His hands and feet."

Hours later, I began my story with the perseverance of Steinbrenner High's Isabella Puppa, whose difficulty with food allergies eventually reached a life-threatening stage two years ago with the recognition that she can't eat fruit, nuts, wheat, soy, corn, rice, barley, oats and peas. Isabella joked she can settle a debate, saying that tomatoes must be a fruit because she's also allergic to them.

However, Isabella focuses on turning her Girl Scouts Gold Star project into an effort that will aide others with food allergies.

"As Aristotle said, 'It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light,' " Isabella said. "That's exactly what I intend to do."

I could go on and on. And on. The steely determination of Middleton's Alicia Bishop, who strives to succeed in the male-dominated field of engineering, the giving soul of King High's Briana Bursten, who works at a camp for underserved kids and the activism of Berkeley Prep's Emily Harwell, who helped promote a Thursday night screening of the groundbreaking documentary Girl Rising all left an impression.

These aren't ladies squeezing in volunteer hours between days at the beach. Consider their summer plans: Robinson's Kailey Fernandez again will partner with her sister to run the summer camp they started four years ago; Plant City's Kellyanne Hurst will attend a summer seminar for students aiming to enroll in the U.S. Naval Academy in 2014.

The paths each took to greatness varies, but their progress typically involved overcoming obstacles and succeeding in varying fields. Freedom High's Laury Rivera-Adorno overcame an early language barrier as an immigrant and illness in her family to develop into an honor student. Academy of the Holy Names' Gabrielle Madden shared an amusing story about her work with robotics, not even bothering to mention she's also an award-winning poet.

As the days go by, I'll continue to talk about the perseverance, intelligence, commitment, achievement and care displayed by all of these ladies. I'm truly awed, especially when I consider my own trials and tribulations as a 17-year-old. My greatest struggle? Algebra II. My greatest achievement? Getting my license.

While I celebrated the wonders of Dairy Queen's Peanut Buster Parfait back then, they celebrate impacting lives, stratospheric grades and futures full of hope.

"I wish you a lifetime of production, fulfilment and love," said Richardson, the matriarch of the 33-year-old program. "And if you have the latter, you'll have everything else."

Yes, they walked into the Centre Club Thursday with promise, but they delivered inspiration.

They always do.

That's all I'm saying.

Athena Society's Young Women of Promise challenge, inspire 04/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 5, 2013 4:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.