1. Hernando

Hernando High sophomore takes second place in state science fair

Haven Anderson, a Hernando High sophomore, recently claimed second place in the state science fair. GAIL DIEDERICH | Special to the Times
Published May 31

BROOKSVILLE —Haven Anderson, a 16-year-old Hernando High sophomore, recently claimed second place in the state science fair, marking the first time in 18 years a Hernando County student in the senior division has placed that high.

"I've always loved science and am fascinated by how the world works," said Haven. As a child, she asked for science materials for gifts, and she still enjoys explaining her work, including her award-winning project.

"I tested the effect of the strain of oyster mycelium on biosorption of mercury from water," she said. "I think this is applicable in places like underdeveloped countries where water isn't clean. Mycelium might make the water cleaner."

Haven credited biology teacher Amiee Moon for the project idea.

"She's very encouraging, and she's shown me how there can be strong women in science," Haven said.

Hernando High agriculture teacher Rick Ahrens understands Haven's motivation.

"She's intrigued by the world, and she wants to make the world a better place," he said. "She's not afraid to ask questions, and she is very strong at problem solving and thinking skill."

Haven, an honor student, is secretary of the National Honor Society chapter, a Beta Club member and Kiwanis Youth Program member. She also praises Future Farmers of America, of which she's vice-president.

"FFA has given me so many opportunities to further myself in leadership and awareness of agriculture in the world," she said. Ahrens offers strong ideas for projects, she said, as he's done with the agri-science work she will pursue in 2019-2020.

"I want to focus on arsenic in water," she said. "There are places in Hernando where water must be filtered to remove arsenic that's come from cattle dipping vats."

Haven credits her school for its encouragement.

"At Hernando High, when you make an achievement, it doesn't go unrecognized. A thank you to my school that pushes everyone to be the best person you can be," she said.

She also praises her mom, Shilah Anderson, a West Hernando Middle School teacher, her great-grandmother, Vaudine Williams, and her grandmother, Nancy Johnson, a Pine Grove Elementary School principal, for their encouragement and advice.

"My grandmother says when you fall down, you get right back up," Haven said with a laugh.

Gail Diederich is a retired Pasco County teacher of 32 years. She writes feature stories with an education focus for Pasco and Hernando counties. She can be reached at


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