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Teen girls honored as 2009 'Young Women Of Promise'

As a toddler, Lutz's Mallory Hogan crawled like a combat soldier, dragging her leg behind her.

She says she just wanted to get her toy back from her sister, but her crawling style troubled her parents.

By the age of 2, she had been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Most doctors said she would never walk.

Hogan, a junior at Academy of the Holy Names, shared this story with the prestigious Athena Society — after walking up to the podium at the Centre Club.

"Today, I would like to meet all the doctors who said I would never walk and shake their hand," Hogan said. "By giving me such a dire prognosis, they only proved that I could prove them wrong, which happens to be one of my favorite hobbies."

Last week, the Athena Society named Hogan one of its 2009 Young Women Of Promise.

I make it a point to attend the annual luncheon, under the guise of wanting to write about what always proves to be an impressive collection of accomplished young ladies in their junior year.

Of course, that's malarkey. I selfishly attend to learn more about the Women Of Promise because they bless me with inspiration. Like so many young people in our community who quietly make the right choices in the face of adversity, I leave the Athena luncheon each year armed with a renewed sense of hope.

Look at Hogan, who defied those early prognostications. She endured 12 intense operations, a year in a full body cast and countless hours of physical therapy.

Along the way, the determined Hogan became a high achieving student, ranking near the top of her class at Academy. In the fall, she enrolls at Bard College at Simon's Rock, a university specifically designed for 10th- and 11th-grade students.

Here is a quick synopsis of some other Young Women Of Promise with connections to the North of Tampa coverage area. Interestingly, Hogan and three other winners live in Lutz.

Freedom High's Jerisa Upton fell in love with the Chinese culture when her parents hosted an exchange student from that country. She eventually learned Mandarin but was disappointed that her school didn't have a Chinese club. That all changed her sophomore year.

This year, the accomplished bassoonist and artist performed a traditional Chinese dance with her colleagues at the Tampa Bay Chinese New Year celebration.

At 14, Mariana Stavig found herself in a deep hole after her father's death.

"I plummeted," Stavig said. "It was awful. I couldn't go to school. My grades started falling, and I started doing really stupid, questionable things."

Then she realized she couldn't jeopardize her future. Now she's in the National Honor Society and a successful member of the Blake High concert band, playing the bassoon.

Stavig and Gaither's Laura Ackart live on the same street in Lutz. Ackart ranks first in her class and has logged more than 250 volunteer hours as a member of Civinettes. However, she considers her greatest accomplishment the mission work she did in 2007 in Honduras.

Of all the county's nearly 11,500 International Baccalaureate students, Hillsborough High's Jennifer Le ranks second. The Lutz resident and successful tennis player also founded the school's Ambassadors Club and is working to create a tour of the historic school.

King High's Kelsey Nestor spent her elementary school years in Ireland, learning Gaelic and being immersed in that country's culture. Then she returned to Tampa to begin middle school. Talk about culture shock.

Nestor adjusted, however, to become a scholar in King's IB program. Inspired by her brother, who has a neurological disorder, Nestor hopes to become a pediatric neurologist.

Berkeley Prep's Shantaviae Wynn came to the private school from Academy Prep of St. Petersburg, unsure of what her future held. She challenged herself to improve in math, taking two courses in the same year. Now she's part of Berkeley's competitive Mu Alpha Theta math club and a top-notch student.

Other winners: Spoto's Jessica Conkey, Robinson's Julia Couto, Durant's Somer Harver and Tampa Prep's Hilary Sedgeman.

Teen girls honored as 2009 'Young Women Of Promise' 05/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 12:21pm]
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