1. The Education Gradebook

Alonso High School: Tribune scholars profiles and essays

An invitation was extended to the top 3 percent of Hillsborough’s graduating seniors to take part in the annual competition.

More than 200 of Hillsborough County’s top high school seniors from 35 public and private schools accepted an invitation to share their accomplishments and take part in an essay contest through the 2020 R.F. “Red” Pittman Tribune Scholars program. Their profiles and essays are published here, just as the students submitted them. To search all schools, click here.

Alec McGregor

Alec McGregor
Alec McGregor [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. Senior Class Senator in the Student Government Program

2. President and Concert Master of the Alonso Orchestra Program

3. Recipient of the Western Conference Athletic Award for the Boys Varsity Soccer Team

4. Performed in the Hillsborough County 11-12 All County Orchestra

5. Player on the Alonso Boys Varsity Soccer Team

6. Recipient of the Hillsborough County Master Musician Award

College or other post-high school plans: I plan on attending the University of Florida and I will be studying Biomedical Engineering.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As many adults in positions of power continue to ignore and worsen the climate crisis that the world faces today, Florida is one of the states that is in the most danger due to its geography and the threat of the surrounding waters. In order to ensure the safety of their residents, Florida must not only armor their shores with defenses such as increased vegetation and dune restoration, but also begin to order the retreat of residents from coastal areas that are in high risk flood zones. There are many solutions that can be built to prevent flooding using funding from taxpayers and government sources, but where these solutions are implemented must be carefully thought out. The results of these technologies are easy to see in the short term, but there are locations where the technology required to prevent flooding is just too expensive for the government to continually implement and build. At a certain point, it just isn’t feasible from the economic standpoint. In these areas where the risk is high and the costs to lower these risks are too much, the government should be able to buy out property owners and have them move to lower risk areas in order to ensure the safety of the residents.

Andrew Leftwich

Andrew Leftwich
Andrew Leftwich [ handout ]

School activities and Accomplishments:

1. Boys Varsity Basketball player- 9th to 12th grade.

2. Boys Varsity Basketball Team Captain- 12th grade.

3. National Honors Society- 10th to 12th grade.

4. All state Student-Athlete of the Month- 12th grade.

5. Volunteered and Coached a Team at the Little Ravens Basketball Camp hosted by our school, during the summer- 9th to 12th grade.

6. Volunteered at Feeding Tampa Bay multiple times- 10th to 12th grade.

College or other post- high school plans

I will be attending the University of South Florida, and will be working towards my masters degree in Finance.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Climate change is a rapidly expanding global issue that impacts all lives, wether, we realize it or not. Communities will face monstrous waves of water that can tear apart homes and flood streets. As a state, we need to progress towards a solution to slow down climate change and safeguard the communities along the shorelines.

Climate change can be attributed to increased emission of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. Along with increased temperatures that are melting essential glaciers in the northern hemisphere, climate change also results in elevated flooding on coastal communities. The warmer atmosphere can sustain more moisture which results in increased precipitation into these large bodies of water. In the long run, we should all take responsibility and reduce our consumption of energy to minimize the emission of greenhouse gases, but as of now, we need to create natural barriers and areas for communities along the shoreline to relocate during these destructive floods. Although, people may dissent the idea, our greatest potential solution involves raising sales tax all throughout Florida, in order, to provide the necessary funds to create relocation facilities, provide supplies, create natural barriers and buy out properties along the shoreline, creating a secure and financially stable departure.

Although, the depiction of climate change doesn’t create that feeling of commiseration, we all should realize we our responsible for this problem. This will only come with advocacy of these issues and designate the significance of the flooding of coastal communities.

Arlene Midulla

Arlene Midulla
Arlene Midulla [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

Valedictorian of Alonso High School

Rho Kappa (History Honor Society) President

Key Club Secretary

Chick-fil-A certified-trainer

Two-year Team captain of American Cancer Society Relay for Life team

I have volunteered at St. Joseph’s Hospital for over 200 hours

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan on attending the University of Florida in the fall majoring biology on a pre-med track.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As Florida approaches a future with rising sea levels actions must be taken. As the sunshine state a great amount of our economy is based on our shores. Our beaches and seashore communities are a spring break destination and brings in billions of dollars of tourism a year. Moving inland wouldn’t solve the problem as levels would continue to rise and our economy would suffer. The state of Florida should invest in seawalls to protect our sandy shores. Seawalls are expensive and must be replaced as levels continue to rise; as a result, the solution must also work to reduce climate change. Florida will be greatly affected by the upcoming changes in climate, so Florida should instill whole pricing tactics. This would price items like gas at a higher price because the cost to extract it, and negative effects on the environment is included. Goods high in greenhouse gases should be taxed higher, this would decrease the quantity demanded by consumers. These taxes would fund the seawalls and also act to reduce the future degradation of the planet. There is no one simple solution to protect our shores; however, by formulating a tax on the items that cause environmental issues, the sea wall can be built and in the long run climate change will be lessened.

Jasmin Alicea

Jasmin Alicea
Jasmin Alicea [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. I have been a part of the National Honors Society for 2 years.

2. I have been a part of BETA Club for 3 years.

3. I have been a part of Rho Kappa for 1 year.

4. I have gotten A-Team for Alonso High School every quarter (Honor Roll).

5. My school rank is #8.

6. I have been awarded with the AP Scholar with Distinction Award.

College or other post-high school plans: My plan is to attend the University of Central Florida to get a degree in Biomedical Science and follow the track for Pre-Medical to eventually attend Emory University for medicine.

Tribune Scholars Essay

As Florida faces a future with a changing climate, communities should armor their shores against rising waters and retreat from parts of the coast. Not every community or business can afford to move from parts of the coast, but if that area becomes flooded or hit by a hurricane, the cost to repair all the damages will be incredibly expensive, and some individuals could even lose their lives. However, even if communities move back, the water will continue to rise, so both options should be implemented for future and current situations. A possible way to pay for the work needed to armor shores and to retreat is taxes. Many citizens are against raising taxes, but an example that raising taxes could work is within Hillsborough county, where taxes was raised to 8.5% from the initial 7% to help transportation and improve schools. Another idea to how to pay of the work needed is to hold a fundraising event to help raise money by calling on individuals and businesses to donate, as well as selling different items to raise more money. If the government bought out property owners in flood-prone areas, it would displace many individuals, so if the government can supply another area for the property owners, it could be a good opportunity for the government to improve that area so it is protected against flooding.

Lauren Gajewski (Essay winner)

Lauren Gajewski
Lauren Gajewski [ handout ]

School Activities & Accomplishments:

1. Alonso FFA – August 2016 to Present.

Leadership - President (11th & 12th grade), Parliamentarian (10th gr.), Junior VP (9th gr.) Throughout all 4 years in the FFA I have raised & shown livestock (chickens + pygmy goat) at the Florida State Fair and competed in club events at the sub district level. I have earned two degrees of accomplishment within the organization, my Greenhand & Chapter Degrees.

2. Publix Supermarkets – March 2019 to April 2020

Cashier, promoted to Customer Service October 2019. Average 25 hours per week.

3. Humane Society of Pinellas – August 2017 to April 2018

Animal Care Volunteer, later selected for grant-funded temporary paid position through Critter Care Career program. Totaled 180 hours.

4. Clearwater Marine Aquarium – Summer 2017 & Summer 2018

Totaled 110 hours. Volunteered summer ’17 with Guest Experience department and was an assistant camp counselor the following year.

5. Brooker Creek Nature Preserve – seasonal event volunteer between 2016 and 2019. Totaled 50 hours. Worked events such as Owl-O-Ween in the fall and the Spring Butterfly Festival.

6. Horse Power for Kids Fall Festival 2018 volunteer. Totaled 25 hours.

College or other post-high school plans: I am excited to be attending the University of Florida beginning this summer! I will be majoring in Wildlife Ecology & Conservation on a pre-vet track with plans to minor in Nonprofit Organizational Leadership. I intend to use this to pursue a career in the wildlife management field as a conservation veterinarian or wildlife biologist.

Tribune Scholars Essay

With 3.5 million Floridians at risk of coastal flooding and an estimated 1.1 million more to be at risk by 2050 due to rising sea levels, protective measures must be taken to ensure the preservation of our communities. If governments continue to react mildly to climate change threats, these risks will only escalate.

Because armoring shores can lead to further erosion by altering balanced habitats, communities should focus on retreating from coastlines and implementing policies which conserve natural shoreline defenses - such as dunes, seagrass, mangroves, and reefs - that have been exhausted by human activity. The government should encourage wealthy shoreline property owners to donate land to a collective conservancy by enticing them with tax breaks for their environmental contributions. More funds should be allocated toward ensuring newly acquired land remains under government control to regulate its use for conservation. Exercising powers of eminent domain shouldn’t be ruled out to protect flood-prone areas, either. While this interference may result in public backlash, it’s a necessary measure to guarantee enough land is restored to protect the greater good.

Florida’s natural coastal defenses have sheltered us for hundreds of years. We must be willing to weather some economic disturbance to allow for their renewal while promoting non-disruptive ecotourism to mitigate losses from private shutdowns. If the extremity of our action rivals the severity of the risks posed by climate change, Florida communities will come out stronger in the end.

(Sentence 1 statistic: “Florida’s Coastal Flooding Threat.” Back to the Map, 27 Oct. 2016,

Niat Ghebrieal

Niat Ghebrieal
Niat Ghebrieal [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

1. I hold the position of Vice-President of Alonso High’s Rho Kappa Honors Society, an organization in which we conduct and complete numerous service hour projects to better our community.

2. I also hold the leadership role of Reporter in Alonso High’s FFA chapter. In position of this role, I dedicate a considerable amount of my time participating in service projects, county-wide competitions, and attending FFA meetings/conventions.

3. Prior to recent events, I would spend every free day after school volunteering at my local animal hospital, Oak Tree Animal Hospital. In fact, I took a leave of absence from my cashier position at Winn-Dixie to give myself more time to learn from veterinarian Dr. Kumar and pursue my interest in helping animals. Since October of 2019, I have spent 100+ hours volunteering at Oak Tree Animal Hospital.

4. While I complete service projects in both Rho Kappa and FFA, I am also involved in other community-service clubs such as National Honors Society and the Beta Club at Alonso. Being involved in these organizations means a great deal to me as they provide various opportunities for me to supply a helping hand in our community.

5. I am also passionate about my involvement in Relay for Life, an event led by the American Cancer Society that raises thousands of dollars each year for cancer research. Every year we fundraise money in any way we can, including annual car washes.

6. As mentioned above briefly, I am employed at Winn-Dixie as a part-time cashier to which I have improved and developed social skills, aiding me in better communicating with my peers and in general everyday life. This position also helped me understand how to balance responsibilities as I worked, volunteered, and maintained Honor Roll, now completing high school as fourth in my class with a 6.9 GPA.

College or other post-high school plans: I plan to attend the University of Central Florida in the fall of 2020 majoring in Biology, with a pre-vet track.

Tribune Scholars Essay

Rising sea levels pose a great threat to the citizens of Florida. Not only does it signify the potential loss of coastal infrastructure and sewage systems, but it also leads to increased flooding, causing damage to homes, cars, and more. Thus, the rise in sea levels is a serious matter affecting every Floridian resident.

A combination of both armoring the shores against rising waters and retreat should be utilized in the approach to combat sea levels. Armor such as seawalls and the protection of our sewage systems may be paid for through our tax dollars, as well as through fundraising in which citizens of Florida may donate. Though, communities should not focus all energy on armor, as that is a temporary solution to a long-term problem. Efforts should be concentrated on the source of the problem: What is causing the rise in ocean waters? If the root of the problem is pointed out and fixed, it can prevent the rapid rise in sea levels, saving fundamental facilities and the homes of many. Global warming causes ice caps to melt in the ocean, a main reason for the rise in sea levels. Citizens can take every-day environmentally friendly measures to combat global warming. This may include switching to sustainable/clean energy, buying from the local farmers market, conserving water, carpooling/biking to work, and more. Living a sustainable lifestyle can overall reduce each person’s carbon footprint in the fight against global warming, thus inhibiting the rise in sea levels.

Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson
Sarah Anderson [ handout ]

School activities and accomplishments:

  1. Senior Class Vice President/Alonso Student Government 3 years
  2. Varsity Volleyball team captain of 2 years and 4 year team member
  3. Varsity Track and Field team member 4 years
  4. National Honor Society Secretary and 3 year member
  5. Volunteer with my local middle school volleyball team; Feeding Tampa Bay; tutoring younger students though BETA Club; Mease Countryside Hospital Volunteer; and other volunteer opportunities that have arisen through the numerous Alonso clubs
  6. Selected as a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar and 2019 Youth Leadership Institute participant
  7. 2018 National Student Leadership Conference on Law and Advocacy at Yale University

College or other post-high school plans:

I will attend either Northwestern University or Vanderbilt University and plan to study political science and economics.

Tribune Scholars Essay

The warning signs for future sea-level and temperature rises are increasingly hard to ignore, and a world where we let this destroy our beautiful home is a terrifying possibility. No matter how fast this rising will occur, we must invest now in key research and technological solutions, as many at-risk cities already have. Large infrastructure schemes such as barriers and break-walls may at least temporarily reduce losses, but relying on concrete walls and flood systems alone to fight rising tides can only do so much. By investing in research to expand our range of approaches, and finding environmental-based solutions- such as the restoration of mangroves and wetlands- in combination with our barrier systems, we’ll have a fighting chance at a stable future for our coasts.

A major part of Florida’s economy is tourism. We could impose small fees on plane flights, amusement park tickets, beach resorts, and more, so the people who come enjoy our shores can directly contribute to their preservation and protection, helping reduce the economic impact on Florida residents. This would help defray the cost of research, promote development and thus may help mitigate harmful effects more long term. Only after all measures have been exhausted should we consider retreating inland. At that point, the government should compensate homeowners who would be forced to move because these effects will last beyond a single generation, and a few individuals should not bear the entire burden. I think it is partly the responsibility of the government to assist its constituents in events out of their control.

Stefania Grillo

School activities and accomplishments:

1. I was able to graduate top 10 of my class.

2. I made over 200 hours of community service. I volunteered my summers in Tampa General Hospital, read to elderlies with Alzheimer’s, and tutored Hispanic students on Saturday mornings so they were able to pass their reading (FSA ELA) benchmark.

3. I was in JROTC for two and a half years. While there I was in competitive military training, gained discipline, and leadership skills through being a JROTC Platoon Sergeant. In that position, I taught 9th graders the discipline, leadership, basic drill, and the ability to manipulate their rifles in a parade/ceremony. This was so eventually the young cadets could then raise to my position or a higher one in the future.

4. I was an active member in Beta Club and National Honor Society.

5. I got either Principal Honor Roll or Honor Roll all four years of high school, 2016-2020.

College or other post-high school plans:

I plan to attend University of South Florida (GO BULLS!) in Fall of 2020 to strive to get a major in Health Sciences. After, I plan to either attend Medical School or go into Nursing with the ultimate goal of finding a way to save lives.

Tribune Scholars Essay

With the threat of rising seas in the most vulnerable state in the nation, the government should buy out property owners’ homes and return them to nature. The reality is humans cannot go up against nature. Moreover, communities should not have to armor their shores or retreat, if the government would invest more money in protecting wetlands and find a way to reduce greenhouse gases. Since that also is not an option to put money in stopping climate change; the reality is rising sea levels will most likely force many communities to relocate into safer land. Therefore, it should be the government’s job to pay the owners and facilitate this process. It is the job of the government to protect its people, so it makes sense for them to take the high-risk structures out of housing stock.