Westchase teenager Victoria de Lelys received a marriage proposal last summer. That it came from a 6-year-old didn't bother her at all.
"I love to hear, 'Miss Tori, Miss Tori, help me do a cartwheel,' '' de Lelys said. "'Miss Tori, I drew this picture for you.' Or even the best one yet, 'Miss Tori, will you marry me?'
"It was hard breaking Jacob's 6-year-old heart at science camp last summer, but we remain good buddies."
Victoria's work mentoring children and her stellar academic success in Robinson High's IB program led the prestigious Athena Society to name her 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.
Whether she teaches children swim techniques, guides them through religious education or schools them on science during summer camps, Victoria relishes her work with kids as a wonderful escape from the hectic side of her demanding academic pursuits.
"Everyone needs to squeeze in some laughter and fun into their days, and children are a beautiful source of that," Victoria told society members at an April 1 luncheon.
"These children have blessed me time and time again."
Wharton High's Jasmine Roberts, one of three other winners
with connections to the North of Tampa area, hopes to someday bless the world with a major scientific discovery — and she's already on her way.
Jasmine, whose science fair project about bacteria in restaurant ice drew national attention and landed her on Oprah four years ago, now does research at the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center. Her work with cell-therapy treatment with mice already has proven to be effective in leading to possible advancements.
"This treatment could help not just me, because I do have family with Alzheimer's, but it could help individuals with Alzheimer's," Jasmine said. "It could increase the survival rate and lower health care costs."
She also won a recent piano guild contest, successfully remembering 15 individual pieces of music.
Memorization certainly plays a role in helping Middleton High's Kathryn Gertz succeed in math. As one of the leaders of Middleton's Mu Alpha Theta math competition team, she cherishes the success of her team and the camaraderie crafted over the years.
"Basically, 'nerd' becomes a compliment," said Kathryn, who lives in Carrollwood. "They share my love of math and card games and wearing ties, and we even sang Yellow Submarine on the way back from the last competition. And of course, there's all those ridiculous math jokes."
Kathryn also plays piano and saxophone, winning prestigious awards at both.
Hillsborough High's Jennifer West leads the high school swim team, ranks in the 95th percentile of her class and is active with Girl Scouts. Her biggest mark, however, comes from an awareness campaign she sparked to help reduce the needless euthanizing of cats and dogs.
"You cannot only work with people but you can also work with animals and help animals with your project, too," said Jennifer, who lives in Egypt Lake.
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.
That's all I'm saying.