Lithia's latest whodunit comes not from Agatha Christie or P.D. James, but from Alexis Bargamin, an accomplished 11th-grader at Newsome High who has crafted her first mystery novel.
The achievement, along with a stellar academic record and community involvement, led Tampa's Athena Society to name Alexis one of its 2010 Young Women of Promise. The group, a veritable who's who of female leaders, annually honors 10 high school junior girls who show the potential to make extraordinary contributions to society in future years.
Alexis' path to becoming a woman of promise began as a child when she crafted tales with colored pencils in composition books.
"I would write stories about unicorns and princesses and castles and mermaids," Alexis told society members at an April 1 luncheon. "Those eventually evolved from one-page snippets to full short stories that had character development, plot twists and dialogue.
"That's what I infused into this novel that I wrote."
Alexis convinced herself she could pen a mystery after reading the likes of Christie and James, but some suggested she was too young to become a true author.
"I faced a couple of hardships, having to rework dialogue, develop characters and make everything work out so you could understand it after you read it," Alexis said. "I never stopped, and I didn't let the long hours and hard work keep me from accomplishing my goal."
Alexis will now pursue getting her novel published while focusing on a future career as an attorney, who drafts contracts and mergers between multinational corporations.
Riverview High's Pamela Mayo joined Alexis as one of four winners from the South Shore and Brandon Times' coverage area. Pamela involves herself in a number of community efforts, including Girl Scouts. She fuels her passion for animals by showing steer and cattle around the state.
"It's been an amazing and fulfilling experience," she said. "There's never a dull moment on the dairy farms, I promise."
Pamela's work earned her an individual first place in a recent state competition, and her sixth-place finish in a Champion of Champions contest helped her become an ambassador for the Florida State Fair Youth Dairy program.
In addition, she works in a program called Sassy Cows for Savvy Kids, where she assists and trains mentally challenged students to care for animals.
A tab of more than $600 stood between Isabella Rindosh and a trip to Washington, D.C., with the Spoto High orchestra. Unbowed, Isabella got a part-time job and earned all the money she needed to make the trip a reality.
Isabella continues to work to help with family expenses while taking a full load of advanced placement classes, toiling on the soccer team and of course, playing the cello in the orchestra. She wants to become a forensic scientist.
Plant City High's Analise Coffee dreams of becoming a dolphin trainer. When told the nation contains only 100 trainers, she simply said she would become the 101st. With a grade point average that ranks her second in her junior class, she appears to be on her way. She also attended the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership World Congress in Washington, D.C., last year.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio saluted the winners, saying that none of the Athena members was as accomplished as this year's recipients when they were in high school.
"I just hung around," Iorio laughed. "I didn't do any of this stuff."
Iorio also challenged the girls to meet the obligation of making the world a better place.
In a way, it's a responsibility they've already met. No mystery there.
That's all I'm saying.