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Pinellas education news: Graduations, summer camps and talent on display at Walker's Rising Stars event

Walker's Rising Stars talent competition rewards 18 students

Eighteen finalists vied Tuesday night for more than $40,000 in college scholarships and prizes in the 16th annual Walker's Rising Stars competition at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Juniors and seniors at Pinellas County public high schools showcased their skills in six areas: culinary arts, dance, instrumentals, theater, visual arts and vocals. Sarah Gruber, this year's valedictorian at Northeast High, took first place in the culinary category. In dance, first place went to Brandi Bottger of Osceola Fundamental High, who performed a piece entitled I Surrender choreographed by Caitlin Grooms Steele. First place in instrumentals went to Zoe Schwarz of Gibbs High, who performed Etude in C Major, Opus 6 Number 10 on the marimba. In theater, Eva Campuzano of Palm Harbor University High won first-place honors with her performance of a monologue from playwright Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart. First place in visual arts went to Aaliyah Jackson of Osceola Fundamental High for her portfolio of work. And Julia LaPierre of East Lake High took first place in vocals for her performance of Nat King Cole's Orange Colored Sky.

The second- and third-place winners in each category were Leah Davis and Caitlin Keovongsa (culinary), Katherine Smith and Madison Swain (dance), Jackson Gilliland and Dylan McHann (instrumental), Raeanne Castro and Sarah Duren (theater), Lily Annand and Leighann Gross (visual arts) and Aleigha Everitt and Chris Loving (vocals).

The annual competition was created by Dr. Jeffrey Walker and the Pinellas Education Foundation.

Information fairs to feature more than 25 Pinellas schools

Pinellas County families will have the opportunity to attend two fairs this month to explore schools and find the right educational fit for their children. The fairs will feature more than 25 elementary and middle schools at two locations. The first one will be held Tuesday, May 21, at Largo High, 410 Missouri Ave. It will feature Belleair, Belcher, Frontier, Fuguitt, High Point, Oakhurst, Ponce de Leon, Ridgecrest, Southern Oak and Walsingham elementary schools, and Azalea, John Hopkins, Largo, Meadowlawn, Oak Grove and Tyrone middle schools. The second fair will be held Thursday, May 23, at Dunedin High, 1651 Pinehurst Rd. It will feature San Jose, Garrison-Jones, Dunedin, Sandy Lane, Kings Highway, Elisa Nelson, Eisenhower and McMullen-Booth elementary schools, and Dunedin Highland, John Hopkins, Morgan Fitzgerald and Tarpon Springs middle schools. Both events will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. Families will be able to speak with representatives from each school as well as district staff, who can help them register or guide them on how to apply for special programs. For more information, contact Ellen M. Truskowski, district application program specialist, at (727) 588-5037 or

Two Pinellas colleges hold graduations Saturday, Sunday

Eckerd College and St. Petersburg College will hold commencement ceremonies this weekend. The St. Petersburg College event will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at Tropicana Field. Check-in time for graduates is 8 a.m. A Sunday graduation is planned at Eckerd College, with robing for graduates beginning at 7 a.m., along with a coffee and pastries reception for families at South Beach Field on campus. The commencement ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. on South Beach Field and will be streamed live on YouTube.

STEM summer camps open to kids in grades 2 through 9

Registration is still open for the Pinellas County school system's summer STEM camps in June. One series of camps is open to students who will enter grades 2 through 7 in August. They will be at four locations: Leila Davis Elementary in Clearwater (June 3-6), East Lake Middle (June 10-13), Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo (June 17-20) and Tyrone Middle in St. Petersburg (June 24-27). The $100 cost includes lunch each day. The district also will hold two STEM honors camps for students in eighth and ninth grades at East Lake Middle and Lakewood High. Those camps will run from June 10 to 20, Mondays through Thursdays. The cost is $150, which includes daily lunch, two field trips and a T-shirt. Both camps will be held from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. For more information, visit

Honors and awards

A team from Boca Ciega High won the 2019 State of Florida Battle of the Books competition. Team members are Cody Fisher, Lauren Justice, Sarah Sakers and Peturla Scarlett. Their advisor was Boca Ciega High media specialist Lori West. Battle of the Books is a national program designed to engage students in grades 3 thru 12 in reading award-winning titles with a spirit of competition. Questions are based on plots, settings and characters. … Eisenhower Elementary this week received $10,000 from Burlington Stores, Inc., through a partnership with The donation will provide new classroom supplies. Burlington made the donation to celebrate its new store location at Clearwater Mall.