What to write?
That was the question for Abigail Oakes, who like many high school seniors, is trying to rack up some help with those upcoming college expenses by applying for the Scobee Scholarship, named in memory of Dick Scobee, the commander of space shuttle Challenger, which tragically exploded 25 years ago.
Other entrants might be expressing thoughts on how they would use their math and science skills to further things like space exploration — perhaps a manned trip to Mars or another landing on the moon. But Abigail chose to turn her attention to the school classroom and how she could help teach future scientists.
It came down to a formula, one that drew on Abigail's academic and creative strengths, a past learning experience and an ability to think outside the box.
No doubt Abigail, whose academic course load at J.W. Mitchell High includes advanced placement classes in physics and calculus, excels in math and science. But as the layout editor of Mitchell's award winning Hoofbeat newspaper, she also has an impressive creative side.
"I was trying to figure out how I could mesh the two," Abigail said. Then she remembered one of those "aha" moments."
"I was having trouble understanding a physics concept and I just couldn't get it," she said. The teacher could lecture on it. Abigail could read about it. But it wasn't until she studied a textbook graphic that illustrated the concept that it finally sunk in.
"The words didn't make sense to me," she said. "But the picture did."
And so her essay focused on how she would use her education in math and science and her experience as a layout designer to create textbooks to better suit the visual learner.
It was a bit of a gamble, but a good one, since Abigail was named a winner of the Scobee Scholarship along with Jason McKibben of Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded annually to two Florida students — one male, one female — by the Florida Association for the Gifted.
"To receive the scholarship at all is extremely flattering, but to do so in such a landmark year makes me appreciate it even more," Abigail said. "Dick Scobee, along with every other astronaut to date, has risked their life in the name of scientific advancement. I am just really honored that FLAG (Florida Association for the Gifted) finds me worthy of a scholarship commemorating such a noble cause and man."
That money, along with a Bright Futures Scholarship, and perhaps others she has applied for, will help pay the way at a Florida school. Abigail, who is president of the Mitchell High Key Club and a member of Interact and National Honor Society, has already been accepted to Florida State University and is waiting to hear from her first pick — New College in Sarasota.