1. Gradebook

College bound - after a few years in high school

The eighth grader won a partial college scholarship by answering two questions.
Joseph Lafay Washington-Clements won a $10,000 college scholarship in an essay contest through the Hillsborough Education Foundation. [MCLANE MIDDLE SCHOOL]
Published May 21
Updated May 21

Joseph LaFay Washington-Clements is leaving McLane Middle School this month with the beginnings of a plan for college.

The 14-year-old won an essay contest, sponsored by the Hillsborough Education Foundation, by answering two questions that moved the judges.

The first: Explain how your character traits have helped you overcome a personal adversity.

Joseph’s response:

My parents divorced when I was two years old and my mother was granted full custody of me and my older brother and sister. This was difficult for us because our father played a big role in our upbringing. My mother soon re-married a violent man. That relationship eventually ended up with my mom in prison. So, for the last 10 years my father has been raising the three of us alone. I love living with my dad, but I still miss my mom. It’s hard sometimes keeping a relationship with her. Even though we write it’s even harder knowing that it will be years before I can ever visit her. My dad teaches us to face our problems and lean on those that care to help us get through it. I believe that his lesson has become apart of my character. It is how I get through missing my mom.

The second question: Why do you think it’s important to go to college and how will a scholarship help you attend college?

Her answer:

I think that it’s important to go to college because it gives you an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and try to find yourself. College allows people to get a higher education about what they want to focus on. It gives them the opportunity to see how the real world is even if it’s a little cruel. This is because it has people remember what they need to do and make decisions about what they want to do.

College costs a lot of money. Luckily, there’s scholarships. Scholarships could help me attend college by helping me pay for a portion of my college tuition or even all of it. I have always worried about attending college because of the cost so this solves it. This helps me be able to save my money for other things like my dorm, food, and my school books. There are scholarships cover all of that too but just in case it would be nice to be able to save my money for those things as well.

Assistant Principal Troy Vasaturo shared these essays as a way of recognizing Joseph’s work and sharing a little bit of what we learn when students write about their lives.

Joseph is continuing on to Middleton High School. After that, she plans to pursue an engineering degree at the University of South Florida.


  1. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  2. Jeff Eakins and MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough's last two superintendents, were hired from inside the school system. So have all others since 1967. Times staff
    Go to the school district website before 8 a.m. Monday to state your case.
  3. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
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  5. Fortify Florida is a new app that allows for anonymous reporting of suspected school threats. Florida Department of Education
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  7. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  8. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    School security and early learning get top billing in the first committee meetings of the looming 2020 session.
  9. This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter.
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  10. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The proposal is short on details, with officials saying they want to work through specifics during negotiations.