NEW PORT RICHEY
When people pick up this year's edition of the River Ridge Middle School yearbook, they might read about the accomplishments of Emily Castro, a student who has marked her time at the school with achievements in academics, art, sports and science. Oh, and the eighth-grader also designed the cover.
"That's my daughter," said Marcia Castro, Emily's mother. "If you give her a challenge, soon it's not a challenge."
The three-time River Ridge Middle student of the month carries a 4.0 GPA, and has maintained a straight-A record since third grade. She has won the River Ridge Knight of Excellence award and — as a part of the Duke Talent Search — received a medal for state recognition for language arts on the ACT.
"I just always wanted to be the best I could be," Emily, 14, said.
According to Karen Tabone, principal's secretary at River Ridge Middle and a coach of a school Odyssey of the Mind team, Emily succeeds at this goal.
"Emily was part of a team that went to state last year, and she's an all-around fantastic and talented kid," Tabone said. "There's never any bragging from her. She comes in every day, gets to work, and excels at everything she tackles."
In December, Emily claimed one of four grand prizes in the Medical Center of Trinity's "Expressions of Thanks" art contest. More than 800 Pasco students submitted artwork, poems and essays for the competition that celebrated the service of U.S. military veterans.
Emily's entry, a poem and illustration honoring the homecoming of a soldier, was presented to Pasco County commissioners and drew special acclaim.
"At the Expression of Thanks reception, a veteran came up to me and thanked me for my work," Emily said. "That made me feel very good."
One of the veterans judging the competition was particularly appreciative.
"Emily's work really stood out above the rest, as the viewer could sense her emotional connection to this project," said judge Michael Ciminna, who works for U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. "As soon as I saw it, I was immediately reminded of my time in the Marine Corps and the emotional moments my wife and I shared before my deployments to Iraq, as well as the jubilation we both felt upon my return."
She won a schoolwide contest for her cinematically inspired "Rated RRMS" digital design that will grace the cover of the school yearbook and also earned a first-place trophy for original art at the Pasco County Fair Youth Art Exhibit, and second- and third-place ribbons in the photography division.
"When creating art, I especially like to work with unconventional materials that don't go together," she said. That includes Halloween costumes, a duct tape dress and portraits made entirely from strings and glue.
As a soccer player with the Lady Knights she set school records this season and broke the school scoring record with 26 goals. Emily also plays volleyball, coaches kids soccer teams and plays quarterback on a co-ed flag football team.
"The boys just know her now as 'that girl,' " said Chris Castro, her father. "They just know, that's Emily."